Montini's magic runs out in a loss to the Cyclones
Montini’s reign atop the IHSA Class 5A football scene was bound to end someday. Through the opening quarter of Saturday’s state title game against Springfield’s Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, it didn’t look like that day was at hand. The Broncos held a 21-7 lead over the Cyclones after one quarter of Saturday’s battle at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. It seemed like the Broncos’ dominance would continue through 2013, producing a fifth straight state championship. But the drive to another title stalled as the game progressed. Montini’s recent history of dramatic playoff victories did not materialize, and the Broncos found themselves in the unfamiliar position of ending the season with a loss. Sacred Heart-Griffin scored 31 straight points against Montini to turn a 21-7 deficit into a 38-21 lead during the championship tilt between a pair of teams that entered the battle with 13-0 records. The 31-point surge, which included 17 third-quarter points, locked up the title for the Cyclones. The Broncos managed a last-minute touchdown to close out the scoring in Sacred Heart-Griffin’s 38-28 victory. In addition to ending Montini’s streak of consecutive state titles at four, the Cyclones prevented the Broncos from their first-ever undefeated season. Saturday’s loss also ended Montini’s streak of 24 straight playoff victories. The Broncos had not suffered a post-season loss since falling 28-14 to St. Francis in a quarterfinal meeting in Lombard on Nov. 15, 2008. “They [the Cyclones] were really well-prepared,” said Montini head coach Chris Andriano following the game. “Their kids did a great job on both sides of the ball. They deserved it. I’m very proud of our team, obviously. We’ve been through a lot of battles together. We beat some really great teams this year. These guys have got a lot of good memories from a terrific year.” Sacred Heart-Griffin has its own state-championship tradition. The Cyclones have now won four IHSA football titles (2005, 2006, 2008 and 2013) in the last nine seasons. “This one is a sweet one,” said longtime Cyclones coach Ken Leonard. “We wanted to show everybody, no offense to you Chicago folks, but there is football played south of I-80.” The Broncos could not have enjoyed a better start to the game, which took place under a bright blue sky and cool but comfortable conditions at a new venue for IHSA state title games. (From 1999 through 2012, the championship games took place at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.) The Cyclones received the opening kickoff and drove into Montini territory, but the Broncos delivered a defensive stop on a fourth-down running play and took over at their own 42-yard line. Montini’s offense then unleashed a 58-yard scoring drive that included a pair of third-down completions from senior quarterback Alex Wills to junior Leon Thornton. Wills and Thornton connected for a 21-yard gain on a third-and-14 play. Moments later, they hooked up on a 10-yard pass on a third-and-six play. Wills ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Junior kicker Mason Weissenhofer added the extra-point kick to give Montini a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Cyclones’ next offensive drive ended with a punt. Montini then drove 56 yards for its second touchdown of the day. A 29-yard pass from Wills to senior Matt Brachmann gave the Broncos a first down at Sacred Heart-Griffin’s 12-yard line. One play later, Wills fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior Connor Costello, who made a diving catch at the goal line. Weissenhofer kicked the extra point to extend the Broncos’ lead to 14-0 with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Cyclones responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run with 25 seconds to play in the first quarter. The extra-point kick cut Montini’s lead to 14-7. The Broncos regained the momentum on the ensuing kickoff, which senior Derrick Curry returned 82 yards for a touchdown. The conversion kick gave Montini a 21-7 lead with 15 seconds left in the opening quarter. If Montini delivered a fourth-down stop, two touchdown drives and a special-teams score in the first 12 minutes of the game, the remaining 36 minutes figured to bring plenty of other highlights. Who would have guessed at that point that the Broncos would go scoreless until the game’s final minute? A 56-yard touchdown run helped the Cyclones trim Montini’s lead to 21-14 with about nine minutes to play in the second quarter. The Broncos then drove more than 60 yards to advance the ball inside Sacred Heart-Griffin’s 20-yard line. Senior Tyler Tumpane made receptions of 21 and 19 yards during the drive, which ended with an incompletion on a fourth-and-six play from the Cyclones’ 15-yard line. Montini had another golden opportunity to score at the end of the first half. The Broncos began a drive at their own 36-yard line with about three minutes left in the second quarter. A 34-yard pass from Wills to Brachmann gave Montini a first down at the Cyclones’ 4-yard line. A 1-yard run by Wills and an incompletion led to a third-and-goal play in the closing seconds of the half. Sacred Heart-Griffin sacked Wills for a 12-yard loss on the third-down play. The Broncos, who were out of timeouts, scrambled in an attempt to try a field-goal kick, but the clock ran out before they were able to get in position. A first-and-goal opportunity yielded no points, and even though Montini held a lead at halftime, the Cyclones had momentum on their side. “I thought that was a definite moment in the game,” said Andriano of the first-half finish. “I think they [the Cyclones] rode that momentum at the beginning of the third quarter and took advantage of it.” Montini’s offensive unit was able to move the ball down the field in the first half, but that trend did not continue in the second half. The Broncos received the kickoff to open the third quarter. The drive ended after three plays. A low punt of only 12 yards gave the Cyclones the ball at Montini’s 28-yard line. Sacred Heart-Griffin’s subsequent series ended with a 39-yard field goal that reduced the Broncos’ lead to 21-17. Montini’s next drive also ended with a punt. The Cyclones then took their first lead of the game by delivering a 68-yard scoring drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown run. The extra-point kick pushed the lead to 24-21 with about five minutes to play in the third quarter. Montini’s second-half offensive woes continued on its following series, which ended a fumble on the third play of the drive. The Cyclones recovered the ball at the Broncos’ 31-yard line. Sacred Heart-Griffin converted the turnover into points—a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:15 left in the quarter that helped push its lead to 31-21. The Broncos’ next drive included two receptions by Tumpane that resulted in gains of 30 and 13 yards. The drive ended with a fourth-down incompletion that gave the Cyclones possession at their own 37-yard line. Montini’s fifth offensive drive of the second half ended with a punt. The sixth drive concluded with a Sacred Heart-Griffin interception at midfield with about six minutes left in the game. The Broncos turned the ball over on downs on their seventh and eighth drives of the half. The Cyclones then padded their lead with a 27-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play. Montini scored a touchdown on its ninth drive of the second half. Junior quarterback Charles Norgle finished a 69-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds remaining. Wills completed 23 of 56 pass attempts for 316 yards. Tumpane was Montini’s leading receiver, hauling in nine catches for 137 yards in his final game as a Bronco. Brachmann made five receptions for 98 yards, while Thornton had five catches for 65 yards. Costello provided three receptions for 32 yards. Freshman Prince Walker rushed for 32 yards on four carries. Senior Nikko Italia gained 28 yards on six attempts, while Wills ran 11 times for 25 yards. Sacred Heart-Griffin quarterback Gabe Green ran 26 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 11 of 20 pass attempts for 105 yards. The Cyclones piled up 268 rushing yards on 48 attempts and scored all five of their touchdowns on running plays. Anthony DiNello ran eight times for 66 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Montini senior linebacker Tyler Quick made a team-high 18 tackles. “To be in that kind of elite category of Illinois football, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Andriano, when asked to reflect on the Broncos’ recent run of success. “Our kids have embraced it. Our kids accepted all the responsibility that goes with being a great champion. Today just wasn’t our day. How many games have we won that we pulled out of the fire? There have been a lot of games like that.” Montini’s dramatic playoff victories over the last five seasons included this year’s 22-21 comeback victory over Joliet Catholic Academy in a quarterfinal game on Nov. 16. A touchdown pass and a successful two-point conversion run with about four minutes to play lifted the Broncos to that victory. The healthy crowd of Montini fans who traveled to DeKalb waited and hoped for another late rally on Saturday, but it wasn’t to be. “The magic ran out,” Andriano said. “We never give up. That’s part of being good. It was a cold slap in the face today to not pull it off.”
Rams show promise in loss to Hinsdale Central
The Glenbard East boys basketball team faced Hinsdale Central in Saturday’s game at the inaugural Glenbard/Hinsdale Crossover Tournament in Lombard. The one-day event featured matchups between teams from the recent Glenbard District 87 and Hinsdale Central tournaments. The visiting Red Devils defeated the Rams 63-52. Glenbard East’s overall record slipped to 1-3. Senior JaRon Hall poured in a team-leading 24 points for the Rams, who trailed Hinsdale Central 47-41 with one quarter to play. Sophomore Jack Grigat drained three 3-point shots to contribute nine points. Freshman Michael Finley scored eight points. “We’re young, but we’re getting better,” said Glenbard East coach Scott Miller after the game. “I’m excited with this group. This was a veteran squad for Hinsdale Central. We grew up a lot tonight. We’re just not quite getting over the hump, but we’re playing hard, and we’ve been getting better with each game.” The Rams will open their final season in the DuPage Valley Conference with this Friday’s game at West Aurora. Glenbard East and West Aurora will both move to the Upstate Eight Conference next year. Saturday’s four games pitted the fourth-place teams from each tournament, the third-place teams, and so on. Glenbard East claimed second place at the District 87 tournament, going 1-2 in the event that took place Nov. 25-27. The Rams opened the annual competition with a loss to Glenbard North. One night later, Glenbard East lost to Glenbard West. The Rams closed out the event with a victory over Glenbard South. Glenbard North won the title with a perfect 3-0 record. Each of the other three schools went 1-2. Glenbard East defeated Glenbard South but lost to Glenbard West, while Glenbard South beat Glenbard West. The Rams claimed the second-place tiebreaker by allowing the fewest points of the three 1-2 teams.