Montini's annual, ultimate goal is to win a state championship. That's no different with this season's move to the Chicago Catholic League and a schedule that starts against Maine South, East St. Louis, St. Rita and DeLaSalle.
The edge sharpened after last year's Class 5A championship loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin snapped Montini's streak of four titles. Bringing anticipated offense, Broncos coach Chris Andriano maintains his expectations of challenging for a trophy.
"That's what we aspire to, and then to get better every week," he said. "If we do that we're going to be fine."
The spread offense revolves around a quarterback. Andriano believes in senior Chuck Norgle. A tall pocket passer who saw spot duty last season, Andriano said Norgle has a strong, accurate arm, makes good reads and knows the offense.
Norgle also has a stable of receivers, including the 11th-rated senior in the state according to Rivals.com, Indiana recruit Leon Thornton III. Scorching the sideline, in 2013 the split end caught 59 passes for 1,032 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"He's special," Andriano said.
Even as a freshman last season, tailback Prince Walker often left Montini fans wanting more. He gained 435 yards on just 32 carries, averaging 13.6 yards with 5 touchdown runs. He'll find cracks behind a line that between returning starters Grant Branch, Michael Johnson and Mario Galli and prospective starters Dan Dominiak and Joe Spivak could average 280 pounds.
The defense graduated a ton and lost safety Isaac Lane to a Bolingbrook transfer, but it returns safety Michael Reilley and Montini's sixth-leading tackler last season, defensive end Eric Kibbey. The defense will reload behind players such as linebacker John Embrey and defensive backs Tyler Millikan and Michael Hollingshead.
Always the tactician, Andriano said perhaps the team's greatest strength is the kicking game of punter Stephen Dennis and kicker Mason Weissenhofer. The former averaged 36.2 yards a punt, the latter converted 6 of 8 field-goal tries.
"I think we're thinner, we don't have as much depth," Andriano said. "Our top players are really good, we've got some talent, we really do. But again, it's kind of a new beginning for us, a new challenge for us because of the conference, the Catholic League."
Coach: Chris Andriano (36th year, 269-120).
2013 record: 13-1, 7-0, first in Suburban Christian Blue.
Top players: Grant Branch (OL, 6-4, 280, sr.); Stephen Dennis (WR-P, 6-2, 195, sr.); John Embrey (RB-LB, 6-0, 220, jr.); Michael Johnson (OL, 6-4, 310, sr.); Eric Kibbey (LB, 6-1, 230, sr.); Tyler Millikan (WR-DB, 6-3, 190, jr.); Chuck Norgle (QB, 6-3, 210, sr.); Michael Reilley (DB, 6-3, 180, sr.); Leon Thornton III (WR, 6-2, 200, sr.); Prince Walker (RB, 5-10, 180, so.); Mason Weissenhofer (K, 6-2, 185, sr.).
Fri, 8/29 Montini at Maine South 7 p.m.
Sat, 9/6 East St. Louis at Montini 2 p.m.
Fri, 9/12 Montini at St. Rita 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Montini at DeLaSalle 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 Leo at Montini 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 St. Joseph at Montini 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 Montini at St. Francis 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Fenwick at Montini 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 Marmion Academy at Montini 7:30 p.m.