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Article updated: 11/30/2013 5:48 PM
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Sacred Heart-Griffin denies Montini 5A football title
 

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Sacred Heart-Griffin denies Montini 5A football title
  • Montini coach Chris Andriano comforts quarterback Alex Willis (6) after Saturday's Class 5A championship loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin in DeKalb.

    Purchase Photo | Montini coach Chris Andriano comforts quarterback Alex Willis (6) after Saturday's Class 5A championship loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin in DeKalb. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.com Montini coach Chris Andriano comforts quarterback Alex Willis (6) after Saturday's 5A championship loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin in DeKalb.

    Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.com Montini coach Chris Andriano comforts quarterback Alex Willis (6) after Saturday's 5A championship loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin in DeKalb.

 

DeKALB -- Montini's Drive for Five hit a brick wall here Saturday.

Sacred Heart-Griffin of Springfield denied the Broncos their fifth straight state championship, 38-28, in the Class 5A title game at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium.

"This one is a sweet one," said Griffin coach Ken Leonard, whose son, Derek, coached Rochester to a fourth straight 4A title Friday. "Montini, to beat a program as good as them that's won four in a row and has just been dominating. We wanted to show everybody -- and no offense to all you Chicago folks -- that there is football played south of I-80."

Cyclones' quarterback Gabe Green scored 3 touchdowns and led his team to 31 unanswered points after Montini had built a 21-7 lead after one quarter. Faking handoffs to teammates sprinting outside then going right up the gut, the 205-pound junior gashed Montini's typically stout defense for 145 of Griffin's 268 yards rushing.

"It was kind of like a run-pass option where if they took somebody with them then we would run it. It seemed to be working the whole time," Green said.

As Montini's Ohio State-bound defensive end Dylan Thompson said, "It was a lose-lose situation."

Montini (13-1) looked sharp out of the gate. The defense bent but didn't break on the opening possession of the game, and the Broncos scored the first two times they had the ball.

Montini quarterback Alex Wills plowed forward on a 6-yard touchdown run and the Broncos led 14-0 on Wills' 12-yard slant to Connor Costello with 4:01 left in the first quarter.

SHG (14-0), which won its fourth state championship and first since 2008 in Class 6A, answered with a 1-yard run from Anthony DiNello with 25 seconds left in the first but Montini came right back on senior Derrick Curry's 82-yard kickoff return to go ahead 21-7.

Green busted a 56-yard touchdown run to pull within 21-14 at 9:23 of the second quarter.

After some back-and-forth Montini gained 3 first downs for first-and-goal at the Griffin 4-yard line in the last minute of the first half. A sack by Griffin linebacker Chris Overton stalled that drive, foreshadowing the second half.

"I thought that was a definite moment in the game where we got a chance to keep that edge at halftime, and I think that they rode that momentum at the beginning of the third quarter and took advantage of that," said Montini coach Chris Andriano.

"At that point," Leonard said, "we knew we could win. Our kids started to believe."

Kenny Rowe kicked a 39-yard field goal and Green scored on runs of 17 and 5 yards while the Griffin defense shut Montini down the rest of the day. DiNello added a 27-yard TD run for the Cyclones with 2:44 left to play.

Wills threw for 316 yards but as both he and Andriano admitted, never found a rhythm. Montini set a title-game record with 60 pass attempts but that mainly meant 35 incompletions. Though Griffin often placed six defenders in the box, the trouble started up front.

"It was definitely the most pressure I've seen all year," Wills said.

Montini did get the final score of the game, a 1-yard run by Chuck Norgle III with 56 seconds left. He slammed the ball to the turf. The Broncos' great run was over.

"One game won't define us," Andriano said. "Certainly we're disappointed that we weren't able to bring home another championship, but this is a great group of kids. A lot of great things are going to happen for these guys in their lives as they move on."

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