Strengthened by schedule, Montini aces first playoff test
Loyola. Providence. Brother Rice. St. Rita.
After being toughened up by those Chicago Catholic League Blue Division football opponents during the regular season, Montini felt and looked very well prepared for Woodstock North in Saturday's Class 5A first-round playoff game.
"Our offense was sharp, and again that's a by-product of being tested the last three, four, five weeks," Montini coach Mike Bukovsky said. "That's why we do that and it kind of showed today. Our boys were ready."
The six-time state champion Broncos, seeded fourth, began the path to what they hope will end in a seventh title. They knocked off No. 13 seed Woodstock North 42-7 in Lombard.
Montini (9-1) will host No. 5 seed Sycamore (8-2) at 2 p.m. next Saturday in the second round. Woodstock North ended its season 5-5.
Montini continued to alternate quarterbacks Deontay Bell and Robert Brazziel, and they combined for 176 passing yards, 67 rushing yards and 2 touchdown passes.
Running back Nick Fedanzo, an Illinois recruit, also had a productive day, rushing nine times for 164 yards and 3 touchdowns. His only two carries in the second half went for 64 and 53 yards, and both ended in the end zone.
The Broncos never punted and didn't lose any fumbles or interceptions, but they did turn the ball over on downs twice.
"Our offensive line has been battle-tested, and they had a very good day today," Bukovsky said. "And that's what we kept talking to our kids about. At this time of year, now that's got to pay off for us every week."
It also paid off for the Broncos on defense, which intercepted one Woodstock North pass while keeping the Thunder from completing one to an intended target. Woodstock North's triple-option offense grinded out all of its 246 yards on the ground, with quarterback Ryan Zinnen running for 99 yards and fullback Ed Flores for 97.
"I kept telling our guys all week, there's some tough, scrappy kids," Bukovsky said of the Thunder. "The fullback is a tough, hard-nosed wrestler. The quarterback, a very scrappy guy. There's no quit in those guys, and they did a great job even to the end."
The Montini defense got the message on the field.
"They just never stop. They like to keep on pounding it. We just had to go back at them, get onboard, keep our energy going," Montini senior Fred Stokes said.
Woodstock North's only score came late in the third quarter on Colin Zinn's 10-yard touchdown run. That cut the Montini lead to 35-7.
"We run a system where we feel it gives us an opportunity against teams, obviously they're bigger and faster and all that and about three times as many kids, but we feel like our system gives us the opportunity to negate some of that and we really believe in what we're doing," Woodstock North coach Jeff Schroeder said. "The problem is when you're facing a team with that much size and speed numbers, you can't make any mistakes. You've got to be perfect and we weren't."