STERLING In the northwestern nook of Illinois where wing-T football has long been gospel, the forward pass is a four-letter word not uttered often.
Jordan Westerkamp and Montini showed them what they're missing.
Westerkamp caught 8 passes for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns, quarterback John Rhode threw for 277 yards and 2 scores and No. 6 seed Montini pulled away from No. 3 Sterling in the second half for a 35-10 win in Saturday's second round of the Class 5A playoffs at Roscoe Eades Field.
At least two of Nebraska-bound Westerkamp's grabs were of the one-hand "wow" variety, feats his coach has grown quite fond witnessing.
"He's amazing, isn't he," Montini coach Chris Andriano said. "Body control, great routes. Even in double coverage when the ball is in the air, he's coming down with it. He's the best."
Montini (9-2), which won its 12th straight playoff game and hasn't lost to a public school in the postseason since 2003, advances to host Marian Central next Saturday. Suburban Christian Blue rival Marian was the last team to beat Montini, 21-20 in Week 4 but that was in Woodstock and when Rhode was still nursing a broken finger.
Needless to say, the Broncos are licking their chops.
"Oh yeah, we want to play them," Westerkamp said. "We're pretty fired up about that."
Sterling (9-2) couldn't have followed its script any better in the first half, controlling the ball for 17 of 24 minutes on the slow, muddy grass track. Still Montini held firm to stall a 13-play drive, and an 18-play Golden Warriors possession spanning more than eight minutes could only net a 32-yard Salomon Ocampo field goal. That cut Montini's lead to 7-3 lead with 1:27 left in the half.
"There's a bend but don't break mentality about what we do," Andriano said. "Our guys, they just never show weakness. I love that attitude."
The game quickly turned the Broncos' way after that.
A pop-fly kickoff away from Westerkamp set Montini up with a short field, and the Broncos made it hurt in six plays. Anthony Taylor hauled in a pretty finger-tip grab for a 36-yard gainer, setting up Joey Borsellino's 4-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead in a drive that took all of 39 seconds.
"We practice that all week, that two-minute drill. It worked perfectly," Westerkamp said. "Great momentum going into halftime."
Montini opened its lead out of the break. Westerkamp, who repeatedly beat 1-on-1 coverage on perimeter fade routes, caught a 26-yard deep post for a touchdown on a Rhode rollout. Sterling answered with a 19-yard Dylan Stingley touchdown pass, but Westerkamp made a leaping catch of a 6-yard pass from Borsellino on the third play of the fourth quarter.
"Usually teams are double- and triple-covering (Westerkamp)," Rhode said, "and they had him 1-on-1. He has an advantage against pretty much every defensive back."
Taylor put the cherry on Montini's win, taking a receiver screen 55 yards for a score.
Borsellino had 88 yards of total offense and ran for 2 touchdowns for Montini, with Sterling's Alejandro Rivero going for 66 yards on 24 carries.