- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last season: 12-2 overall, 5-0 Suburban Christian Blue, won the Class 5A state championship, ranked No. 5 in the final ESPNChciago.com 2010 poll
Season ahead: Montini proved the last two years it deserved to be deemed the best team in Class 5A, winning back-to-back state titles.
In the overall picture, the Broncos fell somewhere among the state's top 15 teams in 2009 and within the top 10 last year. In 2011, the Broncos not only have a shot at winning their third consecutive state title, but also look to have the level of players to make a push at finishing among the truly elite in Illinois.
With Montini, it all starts with its offense. No teams looked more dominant offensively this summer than Montini and Maine South. The two also happened to go undefeated in pool play at Wheaton Warrenville South's Red Grange Classic in July and met in the championship, which Maine South won by one point.
The Broncos might just have the state's top receiving corps. They return senior Jordan Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, senior Anthony Taylor, who is drawing Division I interest, and junior Joseph Borsellino. The trio combined for 202 receptions, 3,094 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.
Throwing to the group will be senior quarterback John Rhode, a transfer from Marian Catholic. The offensive line will include returning starters James Lowery and Brian Piper.
Rhode was one of two football gifts Montini received in the offseason. The other was Jaleel Johnson, who transferred in from St. Joe's. He's considered one of the top defensive tackles in the country. Johnson along with senior linebacker Frank Bruscianelli, defensive lineman Josh Rogers and defensive back Tim Mikeworth will key the Broncos' defense.
Star power: Jordan Westerkamp is the state's premier wide receiver. He caught 89 passes for 1,631 yards and 21 touchdown as a junior. In Montini's Class 5A state title victory last season, he had seven receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He's headed to Nebraska. "He's about as complete of a high school receiver as you're going to find," Andriano said. "He does everything, including blocking. He's very strong at catching the ball, great route running. He's got a great vertical jump, and he can take balls ways from defenders. Every part of the game is solid for him."
Breakout performer: Opposing defenses will have to pay plenty of attention to Montini's passing attack this season, and that means junior running back Dimitri Taylor could have some room to run. With his speed, the Broncos are hopeful he'll have a big season.
Defensive difference-maker: Montini isn't taking credit for molding Jaleel Johnson's talent, but the Broncos are sure happy to have him. Johnson, who is 6-4, 295 pounds, is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and is committed to Iowa. "He's a house with feet," Andriano said. "He's a big kid, moves very well. He's got very powerful hips. When he hits people, they buckle."
Newcomer to watch: John Rhodes isn't new to high school football, but he's new to Montini. A two-year starter for Marian Catholic, Rhodes transferred to Montini after his junior year and has quickly picked up the Broncos' offense. "He's got such a presence," Andriano said. "He's smart. He's quiet, but he's smart. He's a playmaker. He's got touch. He's accurate."
Schedule breakdown: Whether Montini deserves to be so highly ranked will be seen in its first two games. The Broncos start with Palatine, which reached the Class 8A quarterfinals last season and just missed being ranked this season. After the Pirates, Montini travels to face No. 11 Loyola. The Ramblers defeated Montini last season and reached the Class 8A semifinals. From Loyola, Montini jumps right into conference play with Marmion, which advanced to the Class 6A title game last year. All together, Montini will face seven teams who made the playoffs last season.
Key game: Sept. 9 at Loyola -- Montini has a difficult schedule, but Loyola will likely be the best team it faces all season. The Ramblers defeated the Broncos 31-9 at Montini last season. The Broncos went undefeated the rest of the way.
What they're saying: "Last year doesn't mean anything anymore," Andriano said. "That's over. This is their time. This is their chance. This is their chance to make their chapter of Montini football history a great one. It starts over, and they have to be ready."