Broncos battle their way into the state semifinals
The Montini football team is one victory away from a sixth straight trip to the IHSA Class 5A state championship game. If the Broncos can win this weekend’s semifinal home game against Geneseo, they will play in the state title game on Nov. 29 in Champaign. Montini advanced to the Class 5A semifinals with Saturday’s 23-13 victory over Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock. The Broncos, who improved their season record to 9-3, have now posted playoff victories over the Hurricanes in each of the last six seasons. Montini held a 17-0 lead over Marian Central Catholic midway through the second quarter. The Hurricanes, who finished the season with a record of 7-5, cut the lead to 17-7 with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Broncos, who held a 20-7 halftime lead, clung to a 20-13 edge with one quarter to play. Senior kicker Mason Weissenhofer provided the only points of the fourth quarter when he made his third field of the game. His 34-yard field goal attempt with a little more than one minute to play sealed the Broncos’ victory. “That was a great high school game,” said Montini coach Chris Andriano of the quarterfinal victory, which took place in frigid conditions. “We had to play our best. I thought we played really well on defense. We were good on offense, but we just didn’t finish a couple of drives.” Montini and undefeated Geneseo will square off in this Saturday’s semifinal contest, which will begin at 1 p.m. in Lombard. The winner will advance to the state championship game against either Peoria or Sacred Heart-Griffin of Springfield. A Montini showdown with Sacred Heart-Griffin would mark a rematch of last year’s Class 5A state championship game. The Cyclones defeated Montini 38-28 to win the title and deny the Broncos a fifth straight state championship. Andriano noted that Montini and Geneseo tangled in a state semifinal battle 32 years ago. Geneseo earned a 46-15 home Class 4A victory over the Broncos. The Maple Leafs went on to win the 1982 state title. Montini’s defense produced a turnover on the opening drive of Saturday’s game when senior Austin Warden intercepted a tipped pass. The Broncos scored moments later on Weissenhofer’s 30-yard field goal. Montini delivered a touchdown on its next offensive possession—a 58-yard drive ended with a short scoring run by sophomore Prince Walker with more than three minutes left in the opening quarter. The Broncos turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, which ended on an incomplete pass at the Hurricanes’ 33-yard line. Two plays later, senior Terrell Johnson intercepted a pass near midfield and returned the ball to the 11-yard line. Walker (15 rushes, 68 yards) ran into the end zone on the next play. Weissenhofer’s extra-point kick gave the Broncos their 17-0 lead, which lasted a few seconds. Marian Central scored on the 94-yard kickoff return on the next play. Weissenhofer missed a 25-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter. The Hurricanes then drove 80 yards for a touchdown to cut Montini’s lead to 20-13 with 3:32 left in the third quarter. The Broncos blocked the extra-point kick. Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, Weissenhofer missed a 51-yard field goal attempt. A Marian Central player picked up the partially blocked kick and returned the ball to Montini’s 46-yard line. The Broncos then delivered a huge defensive stop. Sophomore Joe Spivak made a tackle on a fourth-and-one running play to end the Hurricanes’ drive near the 36-yard line with 9:20 to play. The teams exchanged punts on the subsequent two offensive series. Marian Central’s punt midway through the final quarter gave the Broncos the ball at their own 40-yard line. Senior quarterback Chuck Norgle, who completed 27 of 37 passes for 273 yards, connected twice with junior Tyler Millikan (seven receptions for 90 yards) and once with senior Patrick Maloney (seven catches for 57 yards) on the subsequent drive to set up the 34-yard field goal by Weissenhofer.
Montini finishes fourth at Class 3A state meet
The Montini girls volleyball program’s first experience at the IHSA state semifinals yielded a fourth-place trophy. The Broncos suffered narrow three-game losses in both of their downstate matches at the IHSA Class 3A state event, which took place Friday and Saturday at Redbird Arena in Normal. Joliet Catholic Academy defeated Montini 22-25, 25-19, 25-19 in Friday’s semifinal battle. Breese Mater Dei edged the Broncos 25-19, 19-25, 25-22 in Saturday’s third-place contest. “It was a great experience,” said Montini coach Steve Dowjotas of the team’s trip to Normal. “The atmosphere was awesome. The matches could have gone either way. Some of the rallies were incredible. We didn’t play as well as we should have on Friday, but we bounced back and played pretty well on Saturday.” The Broncos, who had never advanced beyond the sectional semifinals in girls volleyball until this year, finished the 2014 season with an overall record of 23-13. This year’s Montini team featured 12 seniors. “It’s been great to see them progress,” said Dowjotas, who just completed his fourth season as Montini’s head coach. “It’s going to be tough to lose all these seniors.” St. Francis defeated Joliet Catholic Academy 25-18, 25-23 in Saturday’s Class 3A championship match. The Spartans, who have now won three straight Class 3A state titles, completed the season with a record of 38-4. Montini advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals with five post-season victories—beginning with two wins at the regional at the Latin School of Chicago. Those two wins gave the Broncos their first regional title since 2002. Montini then defeated Nazareth Academy and Timothy Christian to claim a sectional title on Nazareth’s home court in La Grange Park. The Broncos earned their berth in the semifinals with a Nov. 8 victory over Tinley Park at a supersectional match in Tinley Park. The Broncos enjoyed a strong start to their semifinal match against Joliet Catholic Academy by winning five straight points to take a 10-4 lead in the opening game. Montini senior Monica Loftus provided four kills during the five-point run. The Broncos maintained the lead for the rest of the first game. Sophomore Bethany Loftus closed out the game with a kill, which was assisted by junior Gina Cappetta. Montini never held a lead during Friday’s second and third games. They fell to a 10-4 deficit in the second game and later trailed the Hilltoppers 21-14 before winning five straight points to cut Joliet Catholic Academy’s lead to 21-19. The Hilltoppers then won the next four points to end the game. The decisive third game was tied at 14-14. Joliet Catholic Academy then won nine of the next 11 points to take a 23-16 lead. Montini won the next three points, which led the Hilltoppers to call a timeout. Joliet Catholic won the next two points to earn the victory. Monica Loftus finished Friday’s match with 11 kills and five digs. Senior Mary Bowe provided nine kills and a team-leading 12 digs. Cappetta passed out 23 assists, while senior Jen Marten made seven digs. Bethany Loftus had six kills. Montini trailed Breese Mater Dei 13-10 in Saturday’s second game before winning five straight points to grab a 15-13 lead. The Broncos won their last three points of the second game on two kills by Monica Loftus and a service ace by Cappetta. The third game of the third-place match was tied at 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, 15-15 and 16-16. Breese Mater Dei, which finished the season with a 38-4 record, then won fourth straight points to seize a 20-16 lead. Montini cut the lead to as few as two points in the closing stages but was unable to pull any closer. Monica Loftus smashed 16 kills and made four blocks in her final match as a Bronco. Bowe had eight kills and 16 digs, while Cappetta contributed 28 assists and nine digs. Marten and senior Mary Long provided 10 and seven digs, respectively.