Kaneland and Montini enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again.
Honestly, Montini enjoyed last year's Class 5A semifinal football game much more than did the Knights, who for a second consecutive year host Montini in the penultimate round, 6 p.m. Saturday at Bruce Peterson Field.
Concerning game plan and tactics not much has changed in the last 364 days since the Broncos beat Kaneland 27-14 in Maple Park as Montini chugged to its second straight state championship.
"They're doing the same stuff, we're doing the same stuff," Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said Friday. "I think the weather might play a big part of it tomorrow night. It's going to be windy and maybe some rain. But as far as X's and O's we're both doing the same stuff."
That would be dueling spread offenses, No. 1 seeded Kaneland's 3-5 defense, No. 6 Montini's 4-3 defense. They are kings of the swing pass, the receiver screen. As opposed to ground-based teams reaching the end via pitch or sweep, Kaneland (12-0) and Montini (10-2) often favor a quicker route through the air to catch defenses off guard, the bubble pass to the perimeter. Of course, they can also beat teams deep.
Only the names have changed. Kaneland's group of five three-year starters is gone, with Drew David seamlessly succeeding Joe Camiliere at quarterback, amassing amazing numbers for a 5-foot-10 sophomore. David has completed 176 of 292 passes (60.3 percent) for 3,121 yards, 38 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
"This year I think their kid would rather throw, though he's athletic enough to take off," said Montini coach Chris Andriano, a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. "But I think it's the same stuff, like us, just different people."
David did take off in the Knights' 20-14 quarterfinal win over No. 13 Rochelle, scoring on an 18-yard run. Ironically, each of Kaneland's three touchdowns came on the ground. Quinn Buschbacher scored on a 4-yarder and Jesse Balluff broke a 33-yarder.
In fact, if Kaneland has an edge in this game aside from playing on its own grass field in front of its "Back in Black" fans, it might be on the ground with Balluff. The sophomore has run for 952 yards and 16 touchdowns. Montini, which has been outgained on the ground 1,823 yards to 1,351, is led by junior Dimitri Taylor with 803 yards and 7 touchdowns.
There is one Montini name Kaneland fans might find very familiar Westerkamp.
Not last year's quarterback, Matt, who ran for 2 touchdowns in last year's semifinal and has since graduated.
His cousin Jordan Westerkamp, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound, highlight-film senior, is among the state's all-time best receivers. Nebraska bound, he's a triple-team beating force who this fall has caught 74 passes for 1,272 yards and 23 touchdowns including 4 in last week's 52-27 dismantling of very good No. 2 seed Marian Central. Jordan Westerkamp is 15 receptions shy of tying the state career record; he owns the career marks for reception yardage and touchdowns. His 62 touchdown grabs are 19 more than the former record.
Like David, who passes for big numbers to not only Buschbacher but also Sean Carter, Zack Martinelli and Balluff, Montini quarterback John Rhode has Westerkamp, Joey Borsellino and Anthony Taylor, Dimitri's senior brother, each with at least 46 receptions.
One of three impact transfers along with defensive linemen Mike Kaiser and 300-pound, Iowa-bound Jaleel Johnson, Rhode arrived from Marian Catholic, impressed over the summer, then broke the thumb of his right throwing hand in the Broncos' preseason scrimmage.
First appearing after halftime in Week 6, Rhode has since completed 120 of 168 passes (a whopping 71 percent) for 2,214 yards, 34 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
"Obviously they're too good to let us sit in one (defense) and let us attack them," said Fedderly, who now has guided two pairs of consecutive semifinal appearances, serving as an assistant on the Knights' 1997-98 state championship teams. "The more we can have the ball in our hands and keep them off the field, the better for us."
It will be an extreme challenge for both teams. But it's nothing they haven't seen before.
"To get to the final four, it's a great honor," Fedderly said. "We earned the right to play this team, and we've been saying, if you guys want to be the best you've got to beat the best."