High School: Montini
Montini, to no one’s surprise, had won the last two Class 3A state championships. The Broncos had been stacked with Division I players, and it would have been a shock if they hadn’t raised back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.
This year’s Montini team didn’t have those same expectations placed on it. The program had graduated its star players and while it had some young talent coming up, even Montini coach Jason Nichols thought his team was a year away from its next state championship.
A night after rallying from 13 points behind in the fourth quarter to upset Hillcrest, the Broncos rolled to a 56-38 win over Vernon Hills on Saturday to win their third consecutive Class 3A state championship.
“A lot of people said this year would be our downfall, but we proved them wrong,” said Montini sophomore Jasmine Lumpkin, who scored a team-high 14 points. “We came back. We had a lot of motivation to come back and win another state title.”
As Nichols stood off to the side as his players celebrated, he expressed how this latest title did feel different than his previous ones.
“Just nobody expected us to be here, including their coach at times,” Nichols said. “I thought maybe when the pairings came out we had a shot to go down. I thought Hillcrest, Springfield would be the two favorites. All of a sudden, we were there.”
Nichols was worried about his team’s energy heading into Saturday’s game. The Broncos had been through a draining game against Hillcrest, and he noticed they looked tired when they met for breakfast.
It’s unlikely anyone in attendance will ever forget what Joliet Catholic junior running back Ty Isaac and Montini senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp did on Saturday.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever saw a first half like I saw with Ty today,” Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp said. “He made big play after big play after big play. It was almost like Gale Sayers-ish. We saw Gale Sayers get those six touchdowns way back against San Francisco. That’s what Ty was today.”
Isaac finished with 515 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 26 carries. He had touchdown carries of 71, 63, 56, 66, 2 and 69 yards. Isaac is being recruited by Arizona, Notre Dame and nearly every Big Ten program.
“The kid’s legit,” Westerkamp said. “He’s an unbelievable athlete.”
Westerkamp, who was the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, wasn’t bad himself in the first half with six receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his second half that grabbed the spotlight.
He caught five passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. He had second-half touchdown catches of 5, 69 and 94 yards. He scored the game’s final two touchdowns in Montini’s 70-45 win.
Westerkamp finished with 11 receptions for 331 yards and five touchdowns. He set the state record for receiving yards and the longest reception (94) in a title game.
“I just told him, ‘Man, you stepped up,” Westerkamp’s father and Montini wide receivers coach Bob Westerkamp said. “‘You saved the best for last. When I thought you couldn’t do anything better, you surprised me again.’ I don’t even know what to say. It’s unbelievable.”
Isaac has another season, but it was Westerkamp’s final performance. He is headed to play at Nebraska next season.
Westerkamp will go out as the state’s all-time leader in career receptions (269), receiving yards (4,355) and touchdowns (66).
Westerkamp was at his best in the playoffs, too. In 15 career playoff wins and three state championships, he had 94 receptions for 1,802 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“Jordan is the best in the state of Illinois,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said after the win. “He’s the best player.”
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Whoever coined the phrase “defense wins championships” would have had to eat his or her words on Saturday, when Joliet Catholic and Montini put on an offensive show that had never before been seen in an Illinois state football championship.
When the scoreboard operator was finally done adding up the numbers in the Class 5A state championship, Montini stood victorious for the third consecutive year with a 70-45 win over Joliet Catholic at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
The two teams combined for a state-record 115 points, 16 touchdowns and 1,644 yards, including 1,013 rushing yards.
“Oh, my God,” said Montini senior Anthony Taylor, who accounted for 113 receiving yards and one touchdown. “Our coach told us it was going to come down to the offense. He told us we had to keep scoring, keep scoring. No matter how far we got ahead, we had to keep scoring. That’s what we did.”
Joliet Catholic junior running back Ty Isaac broke the state title game’s rushing record in the first half alone on Saturday. He ran for 376 yards in the first two quarters, breaking the previous record of 373 yards, set by Dakota’s Jake Apple in the Class 1A state championship on Friday.
Isaac finished with 515 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 26 carries. He had touchdown carries of 71, 63, 56, 66, 2 and 69 yards.
“That kid is an unbelievable football player,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “We did everything we could to stop him, and we couldn’t stop him.”
Montini senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp's day was just as impressive. Westerkamp set the state title game record for receiving yards (331) and longest reception (94 yards).
Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, finished with 11 receptions for 331 yards and five touchdowns. He had touchdowns of 3, 54, 5, 69 and 94 yards.
“He made some great catches when we covered him, and there were some catches that we didn’t cover very well that turned into big runs,” Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp said.
Montini (12-2) won by a comfortable 25 points, but the Broncos didn’t build that cushion on Joliet Catholic (11-3) until late in the game. Montini trailed for portion of the third quarter and only led 49-45 when the fourth quarter began.
Contrary to the rest of the game, Montini’s defense proved the biggest difference down the stretch. The Broncos forced and recovered fumbles on two consecutive possessions at the end of the third quarter that allowed Montini to make it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos’ defense also held strong on Joliet Catholic’s final four possessions and shut out the Hilltoppers in the fourth quarter.
Outside of that, the game was completely offensive. The teams were tied 14-14 after one quarter. Joliet Catholic led 31-28 at halftime. Montini led 49-45 after three quarters.
“It’s very humbling when someone scores that many points on you,” Sharp said. “That was a tremendous offense out there. We picked a bad day to not play well on defense. Their skilled people are as good as we’ve seen, especially Westerkamp.”
Montini’s state championship was the fourth in the history of the program. Andriano has coached the Broncos to all of them.
“We keep reaching and trying to get better, and all of guys and players believe,” Andriano said. “It means a lot. We’re at a level of football now that just says, ‘Wow.’”
Montini junior wide receiver Joey Borsellino struggled to put his emotions into words afterward.
“I can’t even stop crying,” said Borsellino, who scored two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
Montini quarterback John Rhode, who transferred from Marian Catholic for this year, was 29-of-45 passing for 587 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.
Joliet Catholic running back Malin Jones, a Northwestern recruit, rushed for 197 yards. He also intercepted a pass.
Montini’s Franklin Bruscianelli had a game-high 20 tackles, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
At first, being an unknown wide receiver in Illinois was enough to motivate him. Then after putting himself on the map his sophomore season while helping Montini to a state title, he was driven by the critics who questioned whether he was a Division I talent. He proved that with an even bigger junior season, another state title and then chose to commit to Nebraska out of the many scholarship offers he had.
Westerkamp found there were very few skeptics remaining as he entered his senior season. It’s hard to knock a player who is a Nebraska recruit, has won two state championships and is on the verge of breaking a handful of Illinois receiving records.
It was a strange place for him because he always considered himself as the underdog from a small school and used those doubters for motivation.
So what to do? You hunt high and low for doubters -- there will always be those who knock even the cream of the crop -- and turn whatever criticisms you find into a mound of kindling.
And that’s what Westerkamp did.
“I put everything into that motivation,” he said. “I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m going to prove the whole state. If they don’t think I’m as good as whatever, it’s like fuel for the fire.”
Westerkamp will have to wait until Saturday’s Class 5A state championship for that third state title to be determined, but otherwise he definitively answered everything else. Despite being blanketed by as many as four defenders at a time, he caught 78 passes for 1,342 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Against Loyola, there was no doubt he was the best player on the field.
From his mind-boggling highlight catches to his single-season numbers to his multiple state championships to his record-setting career, Westerkamp is the 2011 ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year.
Montini coach Chris Andriano said he hasn’t encountered a more complete high school receiver in his 33 years coaching.
“He’s fast,” Andriano said. “He’s got a great body. He’s got a 40-inch vertical. He’s strong. He’s worked very hard at those physical things. Then you add into it, the intelligence of his route running. He can adjust routes. He’s very smart about reading coverages. He does all those things the right way.
“Then, you got the part of the game where he’s so competitive. He’s just a total player. He affects every play, not just the game. Every play they have to do something to take him away from us.”
Defenses certainly tried to eliminate Westerkamp. They put a guy in his face, another guy over the top of him and then had a safety spy on him. Some teams put three defenders in a zone and a safety on top of that.
“You look at it and chuckle,” said Bob Westerkamp, his father and Montini’s wide receivers coach. “We would put a guy in motion, and nobody would budge because Jordan was still the guy over there.”
Despite all the focus, Westerkamp still found ways to get open. He has at least five receptions in nine games. He has scored one touchdown in all 13 games and had seven multiple-touchdown games. He has nine 100-plus-yard receiving games.
As consistent as Westerkamp has been, he’s always saved his best for the biggest games and the biggest moments.
As a sophomore, he had a team-best six receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown in the state championship. Last season, he caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the state championship.
It’s been more of the same this season. In Week 1, he scored the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes to beat Palatine. Against Marmion in Week 3, he was held to three receptions and 23 yards, but decided the game when he scored a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. Last week in the semifinals, he didn’t have a catch in the first half and came through with a leaping touchdown grab with 2:03 left to lift Montini to a 35-31 win over Kaneland.
In 14 career playoffs game, Westerkamp has 83 receptions for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns, an average of 5.9 receptions, 105 yards and 1.4 touchdowns.
“There’s a lot of guys who are talented, but they don’t have that "it" factor,” Andriano said. “He’s such a unique competitor. He wants the ball. He wants the situation. He wants the pressure. He wants the whole thing like that. He wants that on himself. He takes a lot of pride in being the man.”
Westerkamp especially sought that role against Loyola in Week 2. It was the game he thought would finally cease any doubts about his ability.
“There would be people who say he plays in 5A, and he doesn’t play the same competition as in 8A,” Westerkamp said. “I wanted to prove I could do this against a bigger school and the best teams.”
On Montini’s first drive, Westerkamp hauled in a 22-yard touchdown and came off the field high-stepping and throwing his hands into the air. It was just the start for him. He finished with eight receptions for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
“Do I really have to put it into words?” Loyola coach John Holecek said afterward. “You can’t guard him with two people. He’s special.”
The record books indicate that as well. Westerkamp owns the IHSA records for career receiving yards (4,024) and touchdowns (61). He is also only six receptions shy of tying the state record for career receptions (264).
Westerkamp hopes to add one other feat to his career on Saturday. He would be a three-time state champion if the Broncos defeat Joliet Catholic in a rematch of the 2009 title game.
Whatever happens Saturday, Westerkamp is grateful for all he’s accomplished in four years at Montini.
“It’s crazy just how fast it went,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have the career I’ve had.”
All eight state championships and the Prep Bowl will be shown on ESPN3.com and can be found at ESPNChicago.com.
No. 2 Bolingbrook (12-1) vs. No. 1 Loyola (13-0)
When:Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Class 8A state championship
The story: When Maine South was upset in the second round, this was the best possible remaining game, and both teams took care of business to get here. They both have dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks. Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey is most dangerous keeping the ball. Robbie Bain, who recently committed to Illinois, is an offensive lineman to watch. Loyola quarterback Malcolm Weaver prefers to pass it, but he’s also possesses plenty of speed. Weaver has a plethora of wide receivers to throw it to, too. Defensively, both teams have been dominant throughout the season. Bolingbrook faced some of the state’s best offensive teams in the Southwest Suburban Blue and contained them. Loyola may have been the state’s premier defensive team this season. The Ramblers allowed 8.2 points a game this season and only gave up more than 13 points once. Bolingbrook linebacker Antonio Morrison, who is committed to Florida, is questionable for the game after suffering an injury during the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Loyola 24, Bolingbrook 20
Rockford Boylan (13-0) vs. No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South (10-3)When:Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Class 7A state championship
The story: This is a rare game between one defending state champ against another defending state champ. Boylan won the Class 6A state title last season, and its enrollment placed it in Class 7A this season. Wheaton Warrenville South is the two-time defending Class 7A state champs. Boylan has been as impressive as any team in the state this season. After rolling through its Rockford-area competition in the regular season, the Titans have knocked off one Chicago-area team after another throughout the playoffs. They’ve defeated Libertyville (40-0), Wheaton North (37-20), Crystal Lake South (30-13) and Lake Zurich (16-10) on their way to the title game. All four of those teams were ranked in ESPNChicago.com’s poll at one point this season. Wheaton Warrenville South has had a fairytale season. After graduating nearly everyone from last season’s title team, the Tigers began this year 1-3, putting even a playoff berth in jeopardy. Relying on its defense and running back Dan Vitale, the Tigers turned their season around and have won their last nine games. Most of the victories haven’t come easily, but they’ve found a way to pull out each game. It’s almost as if they’ve been a team of destiny this year as they shoot for a 3-peat. Wheaton Warrenville South may be forced to start sophomore quarterback Jordan Davis due to injuries. Davis was on the sophomore team this season.
Prediction: Boylan 14, Wheaton Warrenville South 10
No. 6 Joliet Catholic (11-2) vs. No. 4 Montini (11-2)
When:Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Class 5A state championship
The story: Joliet Catholic and Montini don’t need to familiarize themselves with each other. This is the third consecutive year the two teams have met. In 2009, Montini upset Joliet Catholic 29-28 in the Class 5A state championship. Joliet Catholic jumped out to a 14-0 advantage in the game, but Montini battled back. With Montini trailing in the fourth quarter, it scored in the final minute to tie the game, and the Broncos won it on a 2-point conversion. Last year, Joliet Catholic topped Montini in the regular season, but Montini went on to win its second consecutive title. Now, they meet again. Joliet Catholic is still powered by its rushing attack. Malin Jones and Ty Isaac are two of the state’s top running backs. Montini’s game is throwing the ball. John Rhode has delivered 35 touchdown passes, and that’s despite missing time early in the season with an injury. Montini wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp is one of the best to ever come through the state. This game could be a shootout. It may come down to which defense can make a stop or two.
Prediction: Montini 36, Joliet Catholic 35
Peoria Richwoods (10-3) vs. No. 5 Prairie Ridge (12-1)When:Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Class 5A state championship
The story: The third time was the charm for Prairie Ridge. After falling in the semifinals the last two years, the Wolves finally broke through to the title game. Their offense has been unstoppable most of the season. They’ve only been held to less than 29 points once. They’ve scored 33 or more points throughout the playoffs. Running backs Connor Greenwald and Jordan Getzelman and quarterback Nick Nissan have combined for 3,132 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns. Peoria Richwoods has had an interesting season. The Knights dropped their first three games, including a 63-34 loss to Joliet Catholic, and responded by winning their next 10 games. Their offense is potent. They’ve averaged 39.5 points a game.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 38, Peoria Richwoods 28
Mt. Carmel (12-1) vs. Aurora Christian (12-1)When:Friday at 4 p.m. in the Class 3A state championship
The story: Aurora Christian has cruised through the Class 3A playoffs. The Eagles have won all their playoff games by 13 or more points. Their offense, which is led by Western Michigan quarterback recruit Anthony Maddie, has averaged 42 points this season. Mt. Carmel, which is in southern Illinois, lost its first game of the season and has won its last 12 contests. Its schedule included six teams from Indiana. Its offense hasn’t scored less than 29 points since that opening week.
Prediction: Aurora Christian 42, Mt. Carmel 24
Simeon (10-3) vs. Mount Carmel (9-4)
When:Friday at 12 p.m. in the Prep Bowl
The story: It’s only fitting Simeon and Mount Carmel close out their seasons with each other. The two teams also met to start the season. Mount Carmel took that game 23-14 at Soldier Field. This time around they’ll play at Gately Stadium for the Prep Bowl. Both teams have been up and down this season, but their offenses have been rolling the past few weeks. This should be another highly competitive game between the two South Side schools.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Simeon 21
2. Whitney Young: The Dolphins haven’t been able to get past Bolingbrook the past three seasons. Last year’s Class 4A semifinal game was an instant classic with Bolingbrook pulling out a 50-49 win. They’ll be the favorites to get another shot at the defending champs. Whitney Young will be led by its backcourt of Linnae Harper, one of the country’s top juniors, and Janee Thompson, a nationally-ranked senior and Kentucky recruit. Whitney Young will also look to sophomores Khaalia Hillsman and Taylor Brame and seniors Tessa Haldes and Alexis Lloyd.
3. Trinity: The Blazers are looking to make that jump into the state’s elite teams this season and appear to have the talent and experience to do so. They went 29-4 last season and return DePaul recruit and all-area selection Megan Podkowa, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last season, junior guard Taylor Nazon, who averaged 11 points, senior guard Alyssa Dengler, junior forward Shannon McGinnis and senior center Vickie Harris. Lauren Prochaska and Mikayla Leyden should also contribute.
4. Maine South: The Hawks pulled off one of last season’s biggest upsets when they knocked off Whitney Young in the Class 4A third-place game. Whitney Young may not have been as motivated after losing in the semifinals to Bolingbrook, but it still was a big win for Maine South and could propel it this season. The Hawks return all five starters and their top six players from last year’s team. Senior guard Michelle Maher, who has signed with Western Illinois, and junior forward Jacqui Grant, who has an offer from DePaul, both averaged around 12 points last season.
5. Marist: The RedHawks look to be a state contender this season with all five starters back from last year’s squad that went 27-6 and lost to Marian Catholic in a Class 4A sectional championship game. Among Marist’s returnees is junior guard JeTaun Rouse, who was the lone sophomore on last year’s ESPNChicago.com all-area team. The other returning starters are seniors Randyll Butler, a Colgate recruit, and Asianna Bey, a Memphis recruit, and juniors Leah Bolton and Claire Ryan. All five starters will likely play Division I basketball.
6. Hillcrest: The Hawks have finished second in Class 3A the last two years. The goal this season is finally to win the title. They return four starters and four key reserves from last year’s 29-3 team. The group is led by Seton Hall recruit and all-area selection Shanise Heady and Southern Mississippi recruit Samirah Ali. Seniors Jasmine Sanders and Jahmia Phillips also are returning starters.
7. Morgan Park: The Mustangs return three of their top players from last season’s 27-5 team. Morgan Park will be led by small forward Kendyl Nunn, a Toledo recruit, center Gabrielle Richmond, a St. Bonaventure recruit, and point guard Debra Jenkins, the glue of the team. Sophomore guard Shami Goodman and freshman Marsha Howard are also expected to receive major minutes. Morgan Park’s sophomore team won the city championship last year.
8. Montini: The Broncos graduated four starters, including three Division I players, from last year’s Class 3A state championship team. This is a program that reloads, though. Senior forward Tianna Brown is the lone returning starter, and she averaged eight points last season. Center Diamond Thompson was just a contributor on last year’s team, but recently committed to Notre Dame. Nikia Edom, a versatile 5-6 junior, and forward Malayna Johnson will also contribute this season. Some of the newcomers to watch will be sophomores Jasmine Lumpkin, Kelly Karlis, Kateri Stone and Sara Ross and freshmen Kelsey Bogdan and Rainey Kuykendall.
9. Bartlett: The Hawks lost all-area selection Jacki Gulczynski to graduation, but still return plenty of talent and depth from last year’s 28-2 team. The group is led by Haley Videckis, an Indiana recruit, who averaged 10 points last year. Senior Kristin Conniff also averaged 10 points last season. Bartlett also returns forward Lisa Palmer and guard Janessa Baker. Seniors Ashley Johnson, Nicole Gobbo, Natalia Grodzki and Kate Gutzwiller will also be looked to this season. Videckis’ sister Kendra, a sophomore, will also play on varsity this season.
10. Waubonsie Valley: The Warriors return five starters from last year’s 24-5 team. Senior guard Tami Morice leads the returnees after averaging 13 points last season. Becky Williford, Eric Jordan, Rachael Ross and Gratia Brooks are also back. Williford will be back from ACL surgery in December. Waubonsie Valley will also look to a sophomore and three freshmen to contribute this season.
11. Niles West: The Wolves only have two returning starters, but one of them is Jewell Loyd, and that’s all that matters. Loyd, a Notre Dame recruit, is one of the nation’s most electrifying players. She averaged 30 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks last season. She gives Niles West a chance in every game. For it to truly compete for a state title, it’ll need junior guard Molly Kleppin, the other returning starter, senior Jackie Cardena, sophomores Dashae Shumate and Alex Galanopoulous and others to contribute as much as they can.
12. Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins should again be one of the area’s top teams this season after going 25-6 last year. They return Loyola recruit Taylor Johnson, who averaged 13 points last season, and senior center Caitlin McMahan, who had 10 double-doubles last year. Senior Amy Jacobsen and juniors Meaghan McMahon and Natalie Hill should be key contributors this season as well.
13 Zion-Benton: The Zee-Bees are coming off their second-place finish in Class 4A. They return all-area selection Octavia Crump, who averaged a near double-double last season, sophomore guard Samantha Rodriguez, who started as a freshman, senior Aaliyan Smith, senior guard Morgan Franklin, and junior guard Kaitlyn Stabenow, the team’s best shooter. Senior Jessica Williams didn’t play basketball last season, but was the sophomore team’s MVP two years ago. She’ll be heavily relied on this season.
14. Fremd: The Vikings should possess one of the state’s best backcourts with senior shooting guard Jessi Wiedemann, a Valparaiso commitment, and junior point Ashley McConnell returning and the arrival of highly-touted freshman point guard Haley Gorecki. Fremd is coming off a 25-7 season and lost just one game this summer.
15. Fenwick: The Friars could be the most entertaining team to watch this season. Coach Dave Power is going full run-and-gun this year. His goal every game is to take almost 80 shots, including 40 3-pointers. Fenwick will be led by senior forward and Yale recruit Meredith Boardman, sophomore point guard Jade Owens, junior guard Maggie Reilly and senior guard Marek Burchett.
16. Geneva: Sarah Meadows replaces longtime coach Gina Nolan this season. Meadows will have a lot to work with this season. Ashley Santos, a Marquette recruit, will be the Vikings’ go-to player. She averaged 15.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.1 blocks last season. Geneva also returns starting guard Rachel Hinchman and junior forward Sami Pawlak from last year’s 25-7 team. Sophomores Michaela Loebel and Morgan Seberger should also contribute this year.
17. Homewood-Flossmoor: After winning 22 games in coach Dana Noble’s first year, the Vikings are out for more this year. They’ll be led by 5-10 guard Charnelle Reed, who averaged 13 points, 3.6 rebounds, three assists and 2.4 steals last season. They also return junior guards Syndi Johnson and Lauren Parker and senior forward Amena Brent.
18. New Trier: The Trevians were a bit of a rollercoaster last season. With nine seniors and 12 returnees back this season, they hope to be up more than down. The group is led by 6-1 guard Maggie Lyon, a Northwestern recruit, who averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists last season. Senior forward Jessica Blackwell also averaged eight points and six rebounds last year.
19. Marian Catholic: The Spartans graduated a bulk of their talent, but this won’t be a rebuilding season. Their roster is full of young and talented players. Among those upcoming stars are sophomore guard Ashton Millender, sophomore guard Brianna Morrison and freshman guard Teniya Page. Seniors Alanna Ferry, Amber Williams and Sarafina Handy and junior Megan Walsh are back from last season, and their leadership will be key.
20. Cary-Grove: The Trojans hope to carry over the momentum of last year’s playoff run, which ended in a narrow sectional loss to Geneva. Cary-Grove returns three starters -- senior versatile guard Paige Lincicum, junior forward Olivia Jakubicek and junior guard Joslyn Nicholson -- from that 27-4 team.
LOMBARD, Ill. -- The most difficult part of Montini’s 52-27 win over Marian Central in the Class 5A quarterfinals may be who to award the game ball to on Saturday.
The Broncos (9-3) certainly didn’t lack notable individual performances on either side of the ball in their win, which avenged a regular-season loss to Marian Central (11-1).
Broncos quarterback John Rhode was 28-of-41 passing for 434 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp caught nine passes for 158 yards and four touchdowns. Joe Borsellino had eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns.
Montini’s defense had its stars, too. Defensive back Joe Cione intercepted three passes. Defensive lineman Mike Kaiser had three sacks.
Montini coach Chris Andriano didn’t single out one player as his star of the game, but he did feel the team’s four interceptions were the game-changer. Erik Floecker also had an interception for the Broncos.
“I really thought the defense was going to have to be the difference because both offenses are special,” Andriano said. “There’s good players on both sides of the ball. I think the interceptions were the difference on the day for us.”
Montini, the two-time defending 5A champions, will face Kaneland in the semifinals next week.
Early on Saturday, it appeared Marian Central was going to go blow for blow with Montini. The Hurricanes scored on their first drive when quarterback Chris Streveler ran for a 58-yard touchdown. After Montini scored two consecutive times, Marian Central responded with its own touchdown to pull within 14-13 .
But after that, it was all Montini.
Rhode connected with Borsellino for a 7-yard touchdown to put the Broncos ahead 21-13. Two possessions later, Rhode hooked up with Westerkamp for a 44-yard touchdown to go ahead 28-13.
On the following drive, Cione came up with his first interception and returned it to Marian Central’s 1-yard line. A play later, Borsellino bulldozed his way into the end zone and Montini had a 35-13 lead.
Cione added two more interceptions before halftime, and Montini capitalized on the second one with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Rhode to Westerkamp again to go up 42-13.
Cione had a two-interception day before, but never three. The third one was a surprise for him.
“I didn’t think he was going to keep throwing the ball,” said Cione, who has six interceptions on the season. “It ended up he did. The last one I didn’t think I was going to be inbounds, but I looked down and broke on the ball again and got it.”
When Marian Central defeated Montini 21-20 in the regular season, the Broncos were missing Rhode. Back then, the offense didn’t pack the punch it did on Saturday. At halftime, he had thrown for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
“At that point of the season, we weren’t at full strength, so it’s nice to come in this game at full strength and show them what we’re made of,” Westerkamp said. “John again, just watching him, he’s unbelievable. The way he can read the field and everything. Having John is a big plus.”
Streveler was up and down Saturday. He finished 22-of-29 passing for 152 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
Marian Central’s Nikko Theodorou had 11 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown.
After Maine South, Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East, the area’s three top-ranked teams, were all knocked off within a 24-hour span, Andriano was glad his Broncos, the two-time defending Class 5A state champs, were still alive. They’ll play Marian Central in the Class 5A quarterfinals on Saturday.
Andriano spoke with ESPNChicago.com on Tuesday about the crazy weekend, quarterback John Rhode's stellar play and trying to avenge a regular-season loss to Marian Central.
Chris Andriano: Wow, my jaw kept dropping. I can’t believe what’s going on there. It’s just high school football.
What’s been the difference for your team since quarterback John Rhode returned from injury?
CA: John is able to see the field and spread the ball around and makes good decisions based on adjusting routes and defensive coverage. He’s the best of all worlds at quarterback because he’s so smart.
Did you anticipate this sort of success with him throwing 28 touchdowns in six games?
CA: I did not, personally. I’ve never seen a kid, and I’ve been doing this a long time, who is able to combine reading defenses and getting the ball to the open guy. He’s just excellent. I’ve never seen anyone better.
What has to happen differently to beat Marian Central this time around?
CA: Defensively, we’re going to have to play a better game. They really did beat us up there. Their offense was really outstanding. They had three long drives and scores. We have to play a better defensive game. We did not tackle well. I think whomever’s defense is playing the best is coming out on top.
What makes Marian Central so difficult to play?
CA: Their quarterback, he’s a threat to run or throw. They have an excellent coaching staff and are a well-prepared team.
Can anyone dethrone Montini?
That’s the main question heading into the ISHA fooball Class 5A playoffs. Montini was beatable without John Rhode at quarterback, but with him back, the Broncos look invincible again.
Strange occurrences do happen in the playoffs. Three years ago Montini barely reached the playoffs but got hot and ended up winning the first of two consecutive state titles.
Is there an underdog out there this year? Which team could be Montini’s biggest challenger? Here’s a deeper look at Class 5A.
Best opening round game
No. 3 Sterling vs. No. 14 Julian: Julian is one of a handful Chicago Public League teams which have a chance at advancing.
Top 10 Class 5A teams
1. Montini (7-2): The Broncos were ranked No. 4 in ESPNChicago.com’s preseason top 20, but lost two early games as starting quarterback John Rhode sat out with an injury he suffered prior to the season. Rhode has been back the last four games, and Montini appears to be the front-runner in Class 5A again.
2. Joliet Catholic (7-2): The Hilltoppers boast as much talent on offense as any team in the state regardless of class. Their defense has to get it together if they’re going to make a run at the program’s 14th state title. They could meet Morris in the second round.
3. Springfield Sacred-Heart Griffin (9-0): The Cyclones received a No. 1 seed in Class 5A last season and were upset in the first round. They should have a better showing this time. Their narrowest win came in a 34-27 victory over Chatham Glenwood in Week 1.
4. Marian Central (9-0): The Hurricanes beat out Montini for the Suburban Christian Blue title. They’ve proven they can play with anybody with wins over Montini and Oswego. They could meet Montini again in the quarterfinals.
5. Kaneland (9-0): The Knights reloaded this season after reaching the Class 5A state semifinals with a senior-laden group last year. They completed their perfect regular season with a win over Morris. They have the easiest path to the quarterfinals.
6. Morris (8-1): The Redskins nearly rallied from a 24-0 deficit to beat Kaneland in the season’s final week, but fell 31-28. They’ll look to carry that late momentum into the playoffs.
7. Chatham Glenwood (8-1): The Titans lost in the Class 5A state finals to Montini last season. That group included nine underclassman starters. Glenwood’s only loss this season was to Sacred-Heart Griffin in the season opener.
8. Tinley Park (7-2): The Titans know how to score. They averaged 37.4 points during the regular season and even put up 20 points in a loss to Lemont.
9. Metamora (7-2): The Redbirds lost in the 4A semifinals last season. They defeated Washington 27-24 in Week 9. The two teams are likely to meet again in the second round.
10. St. Francis (7-2): The Spartans finished third behind Marian Central and Montini in the Suburban Christian Blue.
Top 5 players to watch
1. Montini, SR, WR, Jordan Westerkamp: Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, is the state’s premier wide receiver.
2. Joliet Catholic, SO, RB, Ty Isaac: Isaac has the potential to be one of the best running backs to come out of Illinois in some time. Malin Jones, a Northwestern recruit, is also a skilled running back for the Hilltoppers.
3. Marian Central, SR, OL, Scott Taylor: Taylor is considered one of the top guards in the country. He’s headed to Northern Illinois.
4. Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin, SR, QB, Pat Smith: Smith has been one of the state’s most accurate passers. He’s thrown for 29 touchdowns and just one interception this season.
5. Kaneland, SO, QB, Drew David: David may only be a sophomore, but he’s played well beyond his years. He’s thrown for 2,422 yards and 33 touchdowns with seven interceptions this season.
Julian (6-3): The Jaguars have been on a roll since quarterback Dae’Shaun Hurley was ruled eligible. They’ve scored 150 points in the last four games.
The road for the defending Class 5A state champions
Montini doesn’t have the smoothest path back to the state championship. Being a No. 6 seed, the Broncos will have to beat a number of higher seeds to get there. They could meet Marian Central, which defeated Montini in the regular season, in the quarterfinals. They could play Kaneland, which Montini beat in the state semifinals last seasons, in the semifinal. If Montini and Joliet Catholic reached the title game, it would be a rematch of the 2009 state championship.
Montini is attempting to win its third consecutive state championship with its third different quarterback. Brandon Pechlof was the quarterback in 2009. Matt Westerkamp directed the Broncos last season. John Rhode is the man this season.
State championship prediction: Montini defeats Joliet Catholic
Bracket and analysis.
Here's a look at the final regular-season week of action in ESPNChicago.com's top 20.
Glenbrook South (7-1) at No. 1 Maine South (8-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Maine South takes a 54-game Central Suburban South winning streak into this game. The Hawks’ last division loss was in 2000 to New Trier. Glenbrook South has often finished second to Maine South and is hopeful to change that this year. The Titans’ lone loss this season was to Stevenson early in the year. Glenbrook South has gone undefeated in conference and put up similar overall numbers to Maine South.
Glenbrook South player to watch: Fullback Kevin Schroeder has been key to the Titans’ offense.
Maine South player to watch: Running back Paul Preston has been stellar all season for the Hawks.
Prediction: Maine South 38, Glenbrook South 28
No. 2 Glenbard West (8-0) at Downers Grove North (2 6)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West has already clinched the West Suburban Silver title. The Hilltoppers have shut out their last two opponents. Downers Grove North is better than its record. The Trojans have been in every game this season, but just haven’t found a way over the hump.
Glenbard West player to watch: Senior offensive lineman Johnny Caspers recently committed to Stanford.
Downers Grove North player to watch: Quarterback Riley McGinnis has a big arm.
Prediction: Glenbard West 31, Downers Grove North 7
No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (8-0) at Joliet West (2-6)
When:Saturday at 12 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East should close out its Southwest Suburban Blue title run with an easy win. The Griffins had no trouble last week and beat Joliet Central 42-0. Joliet West has won two conference games, but is coming off a 56-19 loss to Homewood-Flossmoor.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Defensive end Joel Magrum returned an interception for a touchdown last week.
Joliet West player to watch: Wide receiver Korey Rogers knows how to find holes in a secondary.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 42, Joliet West 7
No. 5 St. Rita (7-1) at No. 4 Loyola (8-0)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: The Catholic League Blue championship comes down to this game. Loyola has had St. Rita’s number for the past few years. A season ago, the Ramblers beat St. Rita on its home field and forced a three-way tie for the conference crown. Both teams have stellar defenses. It could be a game decided by a field goal or a lone touchdown.
St. Rita player to watch: Defensive back Ryan Leonard is a big hitter.
Loyola player to watch: Quarterback Malcolm Weaver got dinged up last week, but will be needed this week.
Prediction: Loyola 17, St. Rita 14
No. 6 Downers Grove South (8-0) at Addison Trail (7-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Downers Grove South hasn’t been tested in the West Suburban Gold in recent years. That could change this week. Addison Trail has proven to be among the area’s top teams, especially with its defense. Its only loss was a narrow one to Glenbard West. Addison Trail will have to find a way to stop Josh Williams, who is approaching 2,000 yards for the season.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Defensive lineman Jeremy Ulrich had a sack and a fumble recovery in last week’s win.
Addison Trail player to watch: Anthony Messina had three touchdown runs in last week’s win.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 24, Addison Trail 10
Cary-Grove (6-2) at No. 7 Prairie Ridge (8-0)
When:Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge has been one of the state’s most dominant teams this season. The Wolves have out-scored their opponents 360-65 through eight weeks. Cary-Grove is out of the Fox Valley Valley title race, but it could spoil Prairie Ridge’s outright championship. The Trojans did upset Lake Zurich early in the season and possess one of the area’s top defenses.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Junior quarterback Quinn Baker has the Trojans’ option offense running smoothly.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Corey Barcoft is one of the key players on the Wolves’ defense.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 31, Cary-Grove 14
Lockport (6-2) at No. 8 Bolingbrook (7-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Bolingbrook will likely have to settle for second place in one of the area’s toughest conferences. The Raiders have allowed only three points since losing to Lincoln-Way East. Lockport is headed to the playoffs, but hasn’t fared well against the top talent in the conference. The Porters lost to Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East by a combined 66 points.
Lockport player to watch: Dexter Taylor scored two rushing touchdowns in last week’s win over Sandburg.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Quarterback Aaron Bailey will be in consideration for ESPNChicago.com’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 35, Lockport 14
Providence (5-3) at No. 9 Mount Carmel (6-2)
When:Friday at 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: Mount Carmel fell out of the Catholic League Blue race last week with a loss to rival St. Rita. The Caravan will be looking to get back on track against Providence. Mount Carmel’s offense has struggled in its defeats this season. Providence is 0-3 against conference opponents this season.
Providence player to watch: Running back Andrew Hoffmeister leads the Celtics’ offense.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Brandon Greer scored the Caravan’s lone touchdown last week against St. Riva.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 28, Providence 20
No. 10 Crete-Monee (8-0) at Rich East (6-2)
When:Saturday at 12 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee can win the Southland title outright with a win over Rich East, which has one conference loss. Crete-Monee hasn’t scored less than 30 points in a game this season. Rich East has allowed more than 30 points just once. Something will have to give in this game.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Recruiting attention is picking up for wide receiver LaQuan Treadwell.
strong>Rich East player to watch: Running back Rondell Willingham has been key to the team’s offensive success this season.
Prediction: Crete-Monee 35, Rich East 20
Oak Forest (6-2) at No. 11 Lemont (8-0)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont has already secured itself the South Suburban Blue title. The Indians have put together a memorable defensive season. They’ve allowed one opponent more than six points. Oak Forest should be another challenge. The Bengals have scored 40 or more points five times this season.
Oak Forest player to watch: Running back Tevin Coleman is one of the state’s best.
Lemont player to watch: Jake Lemming is among the Indians’ defensive playmakers.
Prediction: Lemont 31, Oak Forest 14
Streamwood (6-2) at No. 12 Batavia (8-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia can put the finishing touches on its Upstate Eight River title this week. The Bulldogs have held six opponent to seven points or less and are coming off back-to-back shutouts. Streamwood guaranteed itself a playoff spot with a win last week. It’ll be the Sabres’ first playoff appearance since 2002.
Streamwood player to watch: Running back Alex Morrow rushed for 228 yards in last week’s win.
Batavia player to watch: Quarterback Noel Gaspari has been among the area’s best this season.
Prediction: Batavia 42, Streamwood 14
St. Viator (2-6) at No. 13 Nazareth (7-1)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Nazareth will earn a share of the East Suburban Catholic title with a victory over St. Viator. The Roadrunners’ offense and defense have been clicking the past few weeks and out-scored their last two opponents 86-19. St. Viator’s defense has struggled this season, but did shut out Benet in a 28-0 win last week.
St. Viator player to watch: John Balas had four receptions for 129 yards and two touchdown in last week’s win.
Nazareth player to watch: Joshua Moore has been having some remarkable rushing performances.
Prediction: Nazareth 42, St. Viator 14
No. 14 Joliet Catholic (7-1) at Marist (6-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: There’s a good chance that this could be a high-scoring affair. Marist put up 64 points in last week’s win over Carmel. Joliet Catholic is among the state’s offensive leaders with 376 points this season. The winner will get at least a share of the East Suburban Catholic title.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Defensive back Brody Wilhelmi blocked a punt last week.
Marist player to watch: Ian Woodworth threw eight touchdowns in last week’s win.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, Marist 42
No. 15 Wheaton North (7-1) at Wheaton Warrenville South (5-3)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton North can win the DuPage Valley outright with a win over Wheaton Warrenville South. The Falcons haven’t done much against Wheaton Warrenville South in recent years. Their last win over the Tigers came in 2002. Last year, Wheaton Warrenville South beat them twice. The Tigers are riding a four-game winning streak since their early struggles.
Wheaton North player to watch: Running back Patrick Sharp gives the Falcons a balanced offensive attack.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Running back Dan Vitale is one of the area’s most versatile players.
Prediction: Wheaton North 17, Wheaton Warrenville South 14
Wheaton Academy (1-7) at No. 16 Montini (6-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Montini’s offense has been scary lately. Last week, the Broncos put up 75 points. Two weeks ago, they scored 59 points. They should have another big offensive day against Wheaton Academy. The Warriors lost 42-0 to Aurora Central Catholic last week.
Wheaton Academy player to watch: Isaiah Rosas is an offensive threat for the Warriors.
Montini player to watch: Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp is in the running for ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year.
Prediction: Montini 49, Wheaton Academy 0
Conant (6-2) at No. 17 Palatine (7-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Palatine can win the Mid-Suburban League West outright with a win over Conant. Aside from a narrow win over Schaumburg, the Pirates have been dominant against conference competition. Conant should be up for the test. The Cougars are playoff bound and their two losses came by a combined five points.
Conant player to watch: Tim Manckzo is the Cougars’ premier offensive weapon.
Palatine player to watch: Linebacker Kurt Becker is playmaker on defense.
Prediction: Palatine 28, Conant 17
Grayslake Central (7-1) at No. 18 Crystal Lake South (7-1)
When:Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: This could be an interesting Fox Valley crossover game. Crystal Lake South has proven itself throughout the season and will be favored. The Gators are one of the area’s top defensive teams and have allowed only one opponent more than 12 points this season. Grayslake Central has the same record, but hasn’t played the same level of competition. This will be a chance for the Rams to earn some respect.
Grayslake Central player to watch: Joel Valdivia was unstoppable last week. He rushed for 365 yards and six touchdowns against rival Grayslake North.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Reese Dziedzic rushed for two touchdowns in last week’s win over Jacobs.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 20, Grayslake Central 10
No. 19 Marian Central (8-0) at Marmion (5-3)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Marian Central will take the Suburban Christian Blue with a win. The Hurricanes have proven themselves with narrow wins over Montini and Oswego this season, and they’ve dominated everyone else. Marmion has been up and down this season after reaching the Class 6A title game last year. It defense has been its strength and will need to be again against Marian Central. The Hurricanes have scored 40-plus points in their last four games.
Marian Central player to watch: Quarterback Chris Streveler has been consistent throughout the season.
Marmion player to watch: Running back Jake Ruddy is a threat to run or catch the ball out of the backfield.
Prediction: Marian Central 24, Marmion 14
Kaneland (8-0) at No. 20 Morris (8-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This game will decide the Northern Big 12 East championship. Both teams have been dominant most of the season. Morris’ defense has probably been slightly better than Kaneland’s, and Kaneland’s offense probably has the edge between the two teams. They both were tested last week and prevailed. Kaneland rolled in last year’s meeting, winning 47-7. There isn’t much separating the two teams this season.
Kaneland player to watch: Wide receiver Quinn Buschbacher scored five touchdowns in a game earlier this season.
Morris player to watch: Quarterback Austin Feeney was the difference in last week’s 14-10 win over Rochelle. He scored on a 58-yard run to give his team the lead.
Prediction: Morris 28, Kaneland 24