High School: Montini
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ESPNChicago.com’s high school football reporters hand out their “Best of 2011” awards.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
BEST OVERALL PLAYER
FAVORITE PLAYER TO WATCH
MOST MEMORABLE PLAY
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.”
Here's a look at this week’s area playoff action.
No. 12 Glenbard North (9-3) at No. 1 Loyola (12-0)When: Saturday at 12 p.m.
The story: It’s Loyola’s Class 8A state championship to lose at this point. The Ramblers have proven throughout this season that they’re the state’s top team. Their offense and defense have clicked in unison throughout the playoffs and haven’t been tested yet. Glenbard North has upset team after team in the playoffs. The Panthers have knocked off higher seeds behind the play of their two consistent running backs, Justin and Phillip Jackson. Scoring against Loyola won’t be easy. The Ramblers haven’t allowed more than 13 points since Week 2.
Glenbard North player to watch: Alex Mendez had one of the Panthers’ three interceptions last week.
Loyola player to watch: Defensive end Eric Hauser has been among the area’s best this season.
Prediction: Loyola 28, Glenbard North 17
No. 2 Bolingbrook (11-1) at No. 12 Naperville Central (9-3)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Naperville Central didn’t draw a lot of attention to itself during the regular season, but it wasn’t far off from being one of the area’s top teams if you go back and look at its results. It lost by 14 points to Waubonsie Valley to start the season and had narrow losses to Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South. The Redhawks’ offense has been remarkable throughout the last three weeks. They have scored 40 or more points in every game. Bolingbrook has continued to be impressive on both sides of the ball. The Raiders have been jumping on opponents early and not giving them a chance.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Austin Van Meter compliments Florida recruit Antonio Morrison in Bolingbrook’s linebacker group.
Naperville Central player to watch: Defensive lineman Zach Borta was the defensive player of the year in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 27, Naperville Central 21
No. 4 Wheaton Warrenville South (9-3) at No. 3 St. Rita (10-2)
When: Saturday at 6 p.m.
The story: This is a rematch of a 2009 Class 7A quarterfinal game. Wheaton Warrenville South pulled out on a 23-14 win at St. Rita in that contest. This is expected to be another defensive slugfest with even maybe less scoring. Both teams have relied heavily on their defenses to get them here. Wheaton Warrenville South has out-scored their last two opponents 17-7. St. Rita hasn’t given up more than 14 points in the playoffs.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Defensive back and kick returner Mike Shelton has been making an impact all over the field.
St. Rita player to watch: Linebacker Will McNamara is one of the team’s defensive leaders.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 13, St. Rita 10
No. 5 Lake Zurich (10-2) at Rockford Boylan (12-0)When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Both these teams played in a state title game last season. Lake Zurich lost to Wheaton Warrenville South in Class 7A. Rockford Boylan defeated Marmion in Class 6A. Lake Zurich’s defense has been the key to its success the past few weeks. It allowed a total of 17 points to Glenbard West and Elk Grove. Rockford Boylan’s offense hasn’t been contained all season. The Titans put up 30 points on Crystal Lake South last week and haven’t scored less than 28 points this season.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Running back Mike Shield came through again in last week’s win.
Rockford Boylan player to watch: Peter Cimino had three interceptions and a fumble recovery in last week’s win.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 17, Rockford Boylan 14
No. 6 Lemont (12-0) at Peoria Richwoods (9-3)When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
The story: Peoria Richwoods started off its season 0-3 and has rallied to win its last nine games. The Knights squeaked out a 20-19 win over Danville last week. Lemont will be favored, but it will have to win on the road. The Indians notched their sixth shutout of the season with last week’s win. No one has come within 18 points of them through 12 games.
Lemont player to watch: Defensive lineman Sebastian Koziel recorded 1.5 sacks in last week’s win.
Peoria Richwoods player to watch: Running back Kendrick Foster rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win.
Prediction: Lemont 35, Peoria Richwoods 17
No. 9 Prairie Ridge (11-1) at No. 7 Batavia (12-0)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: This is a game everyone has been waiting for in Class 6A. Batavia and Prairie Ridge have been two of the most dominant teams in the class throughout the season. Batavia has out-scored it opponents 506-124. Prairie Ridge has out-scored teams 520-101. Batavia hasn’t scored less than 31 points this season. Prairie Ridge hasn’t given up more than 22 points in a game. This could be a good one.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Guard Tom Evans has been opening holes for the Wolves’ running backs all season.
Batavia player to watch: Defensive lineman Alex Lyons has had a memorable year.
Prediction: Batavia 28, Prairie Ridge 27
No. 8 Montini (10-2) at No. 13 Kaneland (12-0)When: Saturday at 6 p.m.
The story: These two teams met in the Class 5A semifinals last season, and Montini won 27-14 at Kaneland. Montini will have to win on the road again if it’s going to get a shot at its third consecutive state championship. Montini was dominant on both sides of the ball in last week’s 52-27 win over Marian Central. Quarterback John Rhode has been unstoppable throughout the playoffs and threw five more touchdowns last week. Kaneland has been finding a way to win over the last month. The Knights’ last four games have been decided by six points or less.
Montini player to watch: Defensive back Joe Cione intercepted three passes in last week’s win.
Kaneland player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Drew David will likely need to have a big day for the Knights to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Montini 42, Kaneland 21
Sacred Heart-Griffin (12-0) at No. 10 Joliet Catholic (10-2)When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
The story: This should be a battle of a great offensive team vs. a great defensive one. Sacred Heart-Griffin has allowed a total of 24 points in the playoffs. The Cyclones haven’t given up more than 15 points in a game since Week 1. On the other hand, Joliet Catholic has scored 145 points in the playoffs. The Hilltoppers have been held to less than 32 points just once this year. Something will have to give in this one.
Sacred Heart-Griffin player to watch: Chris Harris rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Kicker Isaac Grashoff could help decide a close game. He’s been accurate all season.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 34, Sacred Heart-Griffin 28
Tolono Unity (11-1) at Aurora Christian (11-1)When: Saturday at 5 p.m.
The story: Aurora Christian appears to be the front-runner in Class 3A. The Eagles have been getting it done offensively throughout the season. They’ve scored less than 34 points just once this season. Quarterback Anthony Maddie, a Western Michigan recruit, and wide receiver Chad Beebe are one of the best combos in the state. They’re good for 100 yards and a few touchdowns almost every week. Tolono Unity has put up its share of points this season as well. The Rockets have scored 40 or more points in eight games.
Tolono Unity player to watch: Michael Lafenhagen ran for 191 yards in last week’s win.
Aurora Christian player to watch: Julian Sosa is one of the team’s leaders on defense.
Prediction: Aurora Christian 42, Tolono Unity 28
Simeon (9-3) vs. Harper (10-2)When: Saturday at 12 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: Harper and Simeon face off for the Public League championship and the right to represent the Public League in the Prep Bowl. Simeon had a disappointing run in the playoffs, but is making up for it now. The Wolverines did get by Fenger earlier in the week without quarterback Robert Gregory, who was serving a one-game suspension. Harper avenged an early-season loss to Dunbar in the Public League semifinals with a 40-14 win. The Cardinals have seven shutouts this year.
Harper player to watch: Kewane Pipkins threw for two touchdowns and ran for one against Dunbar.
Simeon player to watch: Paris Ratliff scored touchdowns on a fake punt and kickoff return in the Wolverines’ win over Fenger.
Prediction: Simeon 34, Harper 21
Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Mount Carmel (8-4)
When: Friday at 6 p.m. at Gately Stadium
The story: Brother Rice and Mount Carmel meet for the second time this season with this game deciding which team represents the Catholic League in the Prep Bowl. Mount Carmel won the first matchup 35-24 at home. Both teams like to keep on the ground and have two of the area’s top running backs.
Brother Rice player to watch: Running back Martez Walker has been among the area’s best this season.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Brandon Greer makes plays at running back and defensive back.
Prediction: Brother Rice 24, Mount Carmel 20
Lyons (7-4) at No. 1 Loyola (11-0)
The story: On paper, Loyola should run away with this one. But after last week’s round of upsets, it’s easy to realize that there are no guarantees in the playoffs. The Ramblers haven’t been tested yet through two rounds. They outscored their first two opponents 64-0. Lyons has had some close calls, defeating Bartlett by three points in the opening round and then knocked off Glenbrook South by three points in overtime last week. The Lions’ strength the past three weeks has been putting up points. Their only games of scoring 30 or more points this season came in the last three weeks.
Lyons player to watch: Jaime Jones would have been a great fantasy running back last week. He rushed for five touchdowns on 25 carries.
Loyola player to watch: Wide receiver Peter Pujals is coming off a nine-reception, 181-yard performance against Dunbar.
Prediction: Loyola 31, Lyons 13
No. 12 Downers Grove South (10-1) at No. 2 Bolingbrook (10-1)
When:6 p.m. Saturday
The story: Some of the best football games of the previous four years were Bolingbrook-Downers Grove South matchups. Last season, Bolingbrook won 28-21. In 2009, Bolingbrook won 16-14 in a regular-season matchup, and Downers Grove South won 22-20 in the playoffs. In 2008, Bolingbrook pulled out a 21-20 win. In 2007, Downers Grove South won 10-7. This was the first season their non-conferences meetings ceased, so it’s only fitting they square off in the Class 8A quarterfinals. This could be another classic.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Kaylon Miller is one of the many offensive weapons for the Mustangs.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Offensive lineman Robbie Bain is often responsible for the holes created for Aaron Bailey.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 26, Downers Grove South 24
No. 3 St. Rita (9-2) at O’Fallon (10-1)When:7 p.m. Friday
The story: St. Rita will be making the long drive to the St. Louis area again. The Mustangs made a similar trip in Week 2 when they went to play an out-of-state opponent in East St. Louis. St. Rita is hoping for a better outcome this time after losing that game. O’Fallon has pulled out a couple close wins this season. It narrowly defeated Pekin 34-31 last week. The Panthers’ offense has scored on a consistent basis. St. Rita’s defense will be looking forward to that challenge.
St. Rita player to watch: Max Kurucar had a key interception in last week’s win over Andrew.
O’Fallon player to watch: Running back Ejay Johnson rushed for six touchdowns in the first round.
Prediction: St. Rita 30, O’Fallon 17
No. 4 Stevenson (9-2) at No. 17 Glenbard North (8-3)
When:3 p.m. Saturday
The story: According to the seeding, Stevenson and Glenbard North should not be playing in the quarterfinals. Glenbard North overcame Barrington and Palatine to get here. Stevenson pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs with last week’s win over three-time defending Class 8A state champs Maine South. Stevenson has the been king of close games this season. The Patriots have won six games by a touchdown or less. Glenbard North fell on the wrong side of a couple close games during the regular season, but has been finishing strong late in the season.
Stevenson player to watch: Matt Morrissey is among the capable wide receivers for the Patriots.
Glenbard North player to watch: Phil Jackson makes his presence known on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Stevenson 24, Glenbard North 21
No. 5 Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) at East St. Louis (9-2)
The story: This is the game everyone had hoped to see last season, but it wasn't to be after East St. Louis was removed from the playoffs due to an ineligible player. Neither team is as talented as it was a year ago, but this should still be an entertaining game. East St. Louis’s defense overwhelmed Oswego with its speed in last week’s win. Its offense also has its share of athletes. Wheaton Warrenville South has been getting by on its defense. The Tigers pulled out a 7-0 win over Lincoln-Way East last week.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: Jack Lipinsky is a threat to get to the quarterback on any play.
East St. Louis player to watch: Natereace Strong is no ordinary freshman running back. He ran for 146 yards and a touchdown against Oswego.
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 17, East St. Louis 13
Elk Grove (10-1) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Lake Zurich put together a defensive masterpiece against Glenbard West. If the Bears are playing that well, there are few teams who will be able to beat them. Elk Grove has flown around the radar this season without any wins over ranked teams, but all it has been doing is winning. The Grenadiers are riding a nine-game winning streak into this game. They’ve scored 35-plus points in their two playoff games.
Elk Grove player to watch: Fernando Lozana scored three touchdowns in last week’s victory.
Lake Zurich player to watch: Mike Shield scored the lone touchdown in last week’s win over Glenbard West.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 21, Elk Grove 13
Hubbard (9-2) at No. 7 Lemont (11-0)
When:6 p.m. Saturday
The story: Hubbard is the lone Chicago Public League team to reach the quarterfinals in any class. The Greyhounds’ defense has come up big in the playoffs. It hasn’t allowed more than 13 points. Lemont will be a huge test for Hubbard. The Indians haven’t scored less than 35 points since September. Lemont is also one of the state’s premier defensive teams. It has allowed only two teams more than 14 points.
Hubbard player to watch: Quarterback Quincy Skanes ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Richards.
Lemont player to watch: Kyle Krull is one of the defensive stars for the Indians.
Prediction: Lemont 38, Hubbard 17
No. 8 Batavia (11-0) at Lakes (9-2)
When:5 p.m. Saturday
The story: Batavia again looked like one of the area’s best in last week’s win over Lake Forest. The Bulldogs’ run defense especially emerged in the win. That defense will have another challenge this week against Lakes and its bruising running back Direll Clark, who has been one of the biggest stars of the playoffs. He ran for 200-plus yards in last week’s win over Grant.
Batavia player to watch: Alec Lyons had a sack and two tackles for loss in last week’s win over Lake Forest.
Lakes player to watch: Andre Spencer had seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown last week.
Prediction: Batavia 38, Lakes 24
No. 9 Nazareth (10-1) at No. 15 Prairie Ridge (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: This game has a state championship feel. Either team could take this game and go onto the win the Class 6A title. Nazareth was expected to be good this season, but no one could have imaged it would be this good. The Roadrunners ran through the gauntlet of the East Suburban Catholic for the league title and has been nearly perfect in the playoffs. Prairie Ridge went through a similarly difficult schedule in the Fox Valley and has cruised in its two playoff games. Both teams have strong run games and can put up points.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Jordan Getzelman only needed five carries to run for 108 yards and two touchdowns last week.
strong>Nazareth player to watch: Aenas White caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in last week’s win over Cary-Grove.
Prediction: Nazareth 31, Prairie Ridge 21
No. 14 Marian Central (11-0) at No.10 Montini (8-3)
When:2 p.m. Saturday
The story: This is the quarterfinal matchup everyone was waiting for in Class 5A. Marian Central defeated Montini 21-20 when they met in Week 4. The question is whether Marian Central can repeat the feat now that Montini quarterback John Rhode has returned from injury. Rhode missed the first game. He’s thrown 28 touchdowns in his six games back. It’s not as if Marian Central pulled off a fluke win, though. No opponent has come within 15 points of the Hurricanes since their win over Montini.
Marian Central player to watch: Wide receiver Scott Stochal had eight receptions for 147 yards and one touchdown last week.
Montini player to watch: There may not be a better player in the state at any position than wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp.
Prediction: Montini 35, Marian Central 28
Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 11 Crystal Lake South (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Like Nazareth-Prairie Ridge, this game could have been a state championship game. Boylan and Crystal Lake South have been two of the state’s premier teams all season. Boylan, which won last year’s Class 6A title, has won all of its games by 14 or more points and has held 10 of its opponents to less than 10 points. Crystal Lake South’s defense has been just as spectacular. The Gators have allowed only one opponent more than 14 points this season. This game could come down to inches.
Rockford Boylan player to watch: Defensive lineman Dean Lowry is a Northwestern recruit.
strong>Crystal Lake South player to watch: Reese Dziedzic rushed for 127 yards in last week’s win over Carmel.
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 20, Boylan 14
No. 15 Joliet Catholic (9-2) at Washington (10-1)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: Joliet Catholic had its season ended unexpectedly by Peoria Richwoods in the Class 5A quarterfinals last season. The Hilltoppers are looking to take another step this season. Joliet Catholic defeated Washington 49-7 in the opening round last season. This is an improved Washington team, though. The Panthers have been especially impressive defensively this year.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Running back Ty Isaac added to his memorable season with five touchdowns last week.
strong>Washington player to watch: Dakota Bullard returned the opening kick 87 yards in last week’s win over Rich East.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 38, Washington 24
No. 18 Homewood-Flossmoor (8-3) at No. 19 Naperville Central (8-3)
When:7 p.m. Friday
The story: Homewood-Flossmoor and Naperville Central have been two of the most dominant teams through two rounds of the playoffs. Both teams have scored 40-plus points in both of their wins. Naperville Central’s defense has been more consistent that the Vikings’ defense this season. In Naperville Central’s three losses, it didn’t allow its opponent more than 21 points. In Homewood-Flossmoor’s three losses, it allowed 30-plus points in each game. Homewood-Flossmoor likely has the edge on offense between the two teams.
Homewood-Flossmoor player to watch: Tim Williams has continued to be one of the top quarterbacks in the area.
Naperville Central player to watch: Quarterback Ian Lewandowski ran for two touchdowns and threw for one in last week’s win.
Prediction: Naperville Central 38, Homewood-Flossmoor 28
No. 20 Kaneland (11-0) at Rochelle (8-3)
When:1 p.m. Saturday
The story: The saying “a win is a win” is most apt for the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how you survive, as long you survive. Kaneland and Rochelle are well aware of this. Kaneland got by Belvidere with a 51-45 win the first round and edged St. Francis 31-28 in the second round. Rochelle defeated Urban Prep Charter 43-41 in the first round and Sycamore 21-16 in the second round. The two teams met in the regular season, and Kaneland defeated Rochelle 35-14 in Week 5.
Kaneland player to watch: Cornerback Jacob Razo intercepted his ninth pass of the season last week.
Rochelle player to watch: Quarterback Nick Moore had a 91-yard touchdown run in last week’s win.
Prediction: Kaneland 28, Rochelle 17
No. 1 Maine South (7-0) at Waukegan (3-4)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Maine South is on the verge of another unbeaten regular season. The Hawks should be fine this week, but could be tested against Glenbrook South next week. Waukegan has lost its last two games, including a 56-14 loss to Glenbrook South last week.
Maine South player to watch: Danny Allegretti had an interception against Evanston last week.
Waukegan player to watch: Maurice Childs provides the running threat for the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Maine South 49, Waukegan 14
York (5-2) at No. 2 Glenbard West (7-0)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Glenbard West faces its second quality team in as many weeks. The Hilltoppers defeated Addison Trail 14-0 last week. York has lost it two games this season by a combined three points. Its 27-point total in last week’s loss was its lowest of the season. Glenbard West hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this season.
York player to watch: Quarterback Joe Lucca threw 225 yards and ran for 75 yards against Lyons last week.
Glenbard West player to watch: Joe Zito is one of the Hilltoppers’ many reliable running backs.
Prediction: Glenbard West 28, York 14
Joliet Central (0-7) at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (7-0)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Lincoln-Way East will likely roll in its last two regular-season games. The Griffins’ next two opponents have combined for two wins this year. Joliet Central has been out-scored 291-20 through seven weeks.
Joliet Central player to watch: Quarterback Carlos Curry will look to get his offense going this week.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Quarterback Blake Winkler is hearing from Ivy League and FCS schools.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 49, Joliet Central 7
No. 4 Loyola (7-0) at Brother Rice (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Loyola finishes out its regular season with two tough games with Brother Rice and St. Rita. The Ramblers will certainly earn their Catholic League Blue title if they win out. Brother Rice has been on the wrong end of two tights games against Mount Carmel and St. Rita. The Crusaders are still one of the area’s top teams and should give Loyola a game.
Loyola player to watch: Michael Paloian had two sacks and recovered a fumble against Fenwick last week.
Brother Rice player to watch: Richard Mayer has been a nice complimentary back to Brother Rice’s two star running backs.
Prediction: Loyola 24, Brother Rice 17
No. 6 Mount Carmel (6-1) at No. 5 St. Rita (6-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: The Mount Carmel-St. Rita rivalry has one way in recent years. St. Rita has won the last three meetings, including 54-18 win in 2009 and last year’s 35-14 victory. The Mustangs’ offense doesn’t look as potent this season. They scored a total of 40 points in their two other Catholic League Blue games. Mount Carmel’s offense has put up numbers, but was held to seven points against Loyola. If St. Rita wins, Mount Carmel will fall out of the conference title race.
Mount Carmel player to watch: Quarterback Don Butkus threw for three touchdowns and ran for one in last week’s win over St. Laurence.
St. Rita player to watch: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay scored the game-winning touchdown against Bishop McNamara last week.
Prediction: St. Rita 21, Mount Carmel 20
Hinsdale South (4-3) at No. 7 Downers Grove South (7-0)When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: For Downers Grove South to win another West Suburban Gold title, it will have to go through two quality opponents in the following weeks. Hinsdale South has one conference loss. It has been up and down for the Hornets all season. They haven’t won or lost two games in a row. They did win last week.
Hinsdale South player to watch: Safety Bryan Taheri forced one of five turnovers last week.
Downers Grove South player to watch: Sophomore defensive back DeAndre Washington had an interception last week.
Prediction: Downers Grove South 35, Hinsdale South 20
McHenry (3-4) at No. 8 Prairie Ridge (7-0
When:Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The story: Prairie Ridge was tested early against Jacobs last week and overcame a 14-0 deficit to win 35-14. It was the Wolves’ smallest margin of victory this season. Cary-Grove could still present a challenge for them during the last week of the season, but Prairie Ridge should have no trouble this week. McHenry has allowed 40-plus points against all of the conference’s top-tier teams.
McHenry player to watch: Quarterback Robert Tonyan can be a difference-maker.
Prairie Ridge player to watch: Linebacker Collin Corcoran had two sacks last week.
Prediction: Prairie Ridge 49, McHenry 7
No. 9 Bolingbrook (6-1) at Lincoln-Way Central (1-6)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Bolingbrook will likely have to settle for second place in the Southwest Suburban Blue. The Raiders bounced back from their loss to Lincoln-Way East with a 27-3 win over Sandburg last week. Their defense is among the area’s best. Lincoln-Way Central has lost its last five games.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Linebacker Anthony Morrison will be in the running for ESPNChicago.com Defensive Player of the Year. He had 14 tackles last week.
Lincoln-Way Central player to watch: Brett Ditchman scored his team’s lone touchdown against Lincoln-Way East last week.
Prediction: Bolingbrook 42, Lincoln-Way Central 7
Rich South (3-4) at No. 11 Crete-Monee (7-0)When:Friday at 6 p.m.
The story: Crete-Monee had its closest game of the season last week, beating Rich Central 34-20. The Warriors will hope to put away Rich South earlier this week. Rich South has four losses, but only one in conference and is in second place in the Southland.
Rich South player to watch: Running back DeAndre Washington ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns against Rich East last week.
Crete-Monee player to watch: Michigan recruit Anthony Standifer is one of the area’s premier defensive backs.
Prediction: Crete-Monee 42, Rich South 17
Marist (5-2) at No. 11 Carmel (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: There’s a four-way tie for the East Suburban Catholic lead. Either Carmel or Marist won’t be involved in that race any longer after Friday. Carmel won 20-16 at Marist last season. Carmel’s offense is tough to stop, but Marist has proven it can score points this season, too. This could be another close one. Marist closes out its regular season with Joliet Catholic.
Marist player to watch: Tom O’Neil kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal against St. Patrick last week.
Carmel player to watch: Running back Jordan Kos is coming off a five-touchdown performance.
Prediction: Carmel 38, Marist 28
No. 12 Lemont (7-0) at T.F. North (5-2)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Lemont will be favored the next two weeks, but it could be tested against T.F. North and Oak Lawn. Both opponents are 5-2 right now. The challenge against Lemont is trying to score on its defense. The Indiana have allowed 32 points in total this year, and 20 of those came in one game. T.F. North has scored 50-plus points twice this season.
Lemont player to watch: Christos Giatras rushed for 106 yards on five carries in last week’s win over Hillcrest.
T.F. North player to watch: Anyone on T.F. North’s kickoff team. The Meteors recovered three onside kicks last week.
Prediction: Lemont 42, T.F. North 10
No. 13 Batavia (7-0) at St. Charles North (2-5)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Batavia wasn’t ranked in the preseason, but has been one of the area’s most dominant teams. The Bulldogs have gotten it done on offense and defense. They’ve only allowed two opponents more than 13 points this season, and they’ve scored 35 or more points in every game. That trend should continue against St. Charles North. The North Stars dropped their first five games and have won their last two.
Batavia player to watch: Tight end Evan Zeddies had a team-high three catches and a touchdown in last week’s win.
St. Charles North player to watch: George Edlund ran for 172 yards in last week’s win over Larkin.
Prediction: Batavia 49, St. Charles North 13
No. 14 Nazareth (6-1) at Riverside-Brookfield (2-5)
When:Friday at 7 p.m.
The story: Nazareth takes a step out of the East Suburban Catholic race for a week and plays Riverside-Brookfield in a non-conference game. Nazareth is on a five-game winning streak, and its offense has especially been rolling. Riverside-Brookfield defeated Elmwood Park 28-0 last week for its second win. The Bulldogs lost to No. 12 Lemont 48-0 earlier in the season.
Nazareth player to watch: Kalium Ewing returned two interceptions for touchdowns in last week’s win.
Riverside-Brookfield player to watch: Quarterback Dylan Beketic threw for three touchdowns and ran for one against Elmwood Park last week.
Prediction: Nazareth 45, Riverside-Brookfield 10
No. 15 Joliet Catholic (6-1) at St. Patrick (3-4)
When:Friday at 8 p.m.
The story: Joliet Catholic bounced back from its loss to Nazareth with a 64-13 win over Marian Catholic last week. The Hilltoppers’ offense could have another field day against St. Patrick. The Shamrocks have allowed 30-plus points in their last four games. St. Patrick is also on a four-game losing streak after starting out 3-0.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Defensive end Josh Falk recovered a fumble and blocked a punt against Marian Catholic.
St. Patrick player to watch: Quarterback Ryan Tentler is a threat to pass or run the ball.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 49, St. Patrick 20
No. 16 Geneva (6-1) at South Elgin (3-4)
When:Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The story: Geneva responded after its loss to Batavia with a 42-0 win over Streamwood last week. The Vikings’ offense could have another productive day against South Elgin. The Storm have had a rocky season after finishing 7-4 in 2010. South Elgin’s defense recently struggled against Bartlett and Neuqua Valley in losses.
Geneva player to watch: Running back Bobby Hess scored twice in last week’s win over Streamwood.
South Elgin player to watch: Adolfo Pacheco rushed for 39- and 85-yard touchdowns and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass against East Aurora last week.
Prediction: Geneva 45, South Elgin 20
No. 17 Antioch (6-0) at Grant (5-2)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: This game will decide the North Suburban Prairie championship. Antioch is undefeated in conference, and Grant has one loss. Antioch pulled out some close wins early on, but has been dominant as of late. The Sequoits have won their last three games by 16 points or more. Grant’s lone conference loss came against Lakes. The Bulldogs have won their last three games and scored 40-plus points in three of them.
Antioch player to watch: Anthony Formella is 5-9 and 132 pounds, but he can make big plays at wide receiver.
Grant player to watch: Kyle Whitman rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns against North Chicago last week.
Prediction: Antioch 38, Grant 21
Glenbard North (5-2) at No. 18 Wheaton North (6-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Wheaton North holds a one-game lead in the DuPage Valley, but it faces back-to-back tough games with Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South. Wheaton North’s offense was limited in last week’s 14-7 win over Naperville Central. Glenbard North has lost its last two games. The Panthers only scored a total of 13 points in those losses. Their defense is still among the area’s best.
Glenbard North player to watch: Running back Phil Jackson is Glenbard North’s premier offensive player.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide receiver Johnny Daniels had a 46-yard touchdown catch last week. He’s among the area’s top receivers.
Prediction: Wheaton North 17, Glenbard North 14
No. 19 Montini (5-2) at Walther Lutheran (2-5)
When:Saturday at 1 p.m.
The story: Montini is becoming the team it was expected to be in the preseason. With quarterback John Rhoden’s return from injury, the Broncos’ offense is clicking. Rhode threw eight touchdowns in last week’s win over St. Edward. Walther Lutheran allowed 63 points to Byron earlier this season and has given up 40-plus points three times.
Montini player to watch: Wide receiver Joseph Borsellini should become a larger threat with Rhode now throwing him passes.
Walther Lutheran player to watch: Najee Toomer ran for two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, in last week’s win over Aurora Central.
Prediction: Montini 49, Walther Lutheran 10
Hoffman Estates (0-7) at No. 20 Palatine (6-1)
When:Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The story: Palatine is two wins away from winning the Mid-Suburban West title. The Pirates should be able to cruise this week against Hoffman Estates. The Hawks have been out-scored 333-79 this year. Palatine is riding a six-game winning streak after losing to Montini in the season opener. It’ll close out the regular season with Conant.
Hoffman Estates player to watch: Quarterback Jordan Hudak rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two against Schaumburg last week.
Palatine player to watch: Cam Kuska rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Fremd last week.
Prediction: Palatine 49, Hoffman Estates 7
Rhode fractured his right thumb on his throwing hand when he struck it against a helmet during a scrimmage on Aug. 19.
Rhode transferred to Montini for his senior year after previously attending Marian Catholic. He was Marian Catholic’s starting quarterback the past two seasons and earned Montini’s starting spot this summer.
“It’s not a good one,” Andriano said of the injury. “We were hoping we were going to get good news in the amount of time. He saw a couple difference doctors. All the information that came back was the same.
“He’s taking it pretty well. I think he realizes as soon as he gets back he’ll be our quarterback, and hopefully we’ll be a playoff team and have a lot of football to play.”
The Broncos have won two consecutive Class 5A state championships and entered ESPNChicago.com’s preseason poll ranked No. 4.
Junior Mark Gorogianis will start at quarterback until Rhode returns.
“He’s doing really well in a short amount of time,” Andriano said of Gorogianis. “He’s an athletic type of quarterback. He’s not a pure thrower. With our skilled kids, he just has to get it to them. Everybody’s got to pick it up. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s a team game.”
Montini opens with Palatine, which reached the Class 8A quarterfinals last season, at home on Friday, and plays No. 11 Loyola, which made the 8A semifinals last season, on the road next week.
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."
Johnson, who is 6-4 and 295 pounds, chose the Hawkeyes over offers from Arizona, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.
“He’s a house with feet,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “He’s a big kid, moves very well. He’s got very powerful hips. When he hits people, they buckle.”
Johnson played at St. Joseph the past three years and transferred to Montini for his final season. Montini senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp committed to Nebraska earlier this summer.
Iowa now has six commitments.
The 2010-2011 high school sports year was one to remember for a number of programs.
Maine South’s football team and Bolingbrook’s girls basketball team won their third consecutive state championships. Montini’s football team and girls basketball team captured their second consecutive titles. Wheaton Warrenville South’s football team capped off an undefeated season with another state title. Simeon’s boys basketball team also continued its reign.
But of any of school, no one had the 2010-2011 year New Trier had. The Trevians won five team state championships and four individual state titles to go along with a number of regional and sectional championships.
Here’s a rundown of what New Trier’s teams accomplished this year:
• The boys tennis team won its second consecutive state championship. Robert Stineman repeated as the state singles champion. Jared Hiltzik finished second in singles, and two doubles teams finished in the top five in the state.
• The boys lacrosse team won its seventh consecutive state title. Senior Chad Sawyer became the school’s all-time leading goal scorer this season.
• The girls swimming team won the state championship. Samantha James won the state title in the 100-yard freestyle, and the 400-yard freestyle relay team also won a state title.
• The boys swimming team won the state championship. Max Grodecki won the 100-yard freestyle title, and its 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relay teams also won state crowns.
• The girls golf team won the Class 3A state championship, and Elizabeth Szokol and Kristin Wright finished fifth and sixth in the state.
• The boys golf team took second place in state in Class 3A.
• Senior Mari Georgiadis went 52-0 this season and won the badminton state championship. The Trevians finished third overall as a team.
• The girls tennis team finished third in the state. It had two doubles teams finish in the top six.
• The softball team finished fourth at state in Class 4A.
• The girls cross country team finished sixth at state in Class 3A.
• The boys cross country team finished in seventh at state in Class 3A.
• The boys volleyball team reached the state quarterfinals.
• The girls soccer team won a regional championship.
• The girls volleyball team won a regional championship.
• The girls lacrosse team won a regional championship.
• Senior centerfielder Charlie Tilson was selected in the second round of the MLB draft.
Other notable schools in 2010-2011
Lyons: baseball -- 4A state champions; girls volleyball – 3A state champions; boys soccer – regional champions; girls soccer – regional champions; boys basketball – regional champions; boys cross country – ninth place in 3A; football – reached state quarterfinals in 8A; boys water polo – reached state quarterfinals; girls golf – 10th place in 3A.
Sandburg: badminton – state champions; boys volleyball – state champions; baseball – regional champions; softball – sectional champions; competitive cheerleading – fourth place in state; boys cross country – 10th place in 3A and individual state champion Lukas Verzbicas; boys bowling – 10th place in state; wrestling – third place in 3A; boys water polo – fourth place in state; baseball – regional champions; football – reached the second round in 8A.
Naperville North: girls soccer – 3A state runner-up; boys soccer – sectional champions; boys volleyball – state runner-up; girls swimming – ninth place in 3A; boys swimming – ninth place in 3A; boys gymnastics – fourth place in state; boys golf – third place in 3A; football – reached state quarterfinals in 8A.
Loyola: girls lacrosse – state champions; boys lacrosse – state runner-up; girls swimming-- second place in 3A; boys swimming – fourth place in 3A; girls golf – fifth place in 3A; football – reached state semifinals in 8A; baseball – regional champion; boys golf – eighth place in 3A; girls soccer – sectional champions.
Palatine: girls cross country – second place in 3A; boys cross country – fourth place in 3A; softball – regional champions; boys cross country – fourth place in 3A; badminton – eighth place in state; baseball – regional champions; boys gymnastics – fifth place in state; football – reached state quarterfinals in 8A.
Montini: girls basketball - 3A state champions; football - 5A state champions; wrestling – 2A state champions.
Lake Zurich: football – 7A state runner-up; competitive cheerleading – state champions; boys cross country – second place in 3A; boys bowling – third place in state; softball – sectional champions.
Westerkamp, who is 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, chose Nebraska over offers from Arizona, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Northwestern and West Virginia, among others.
Read the entire story.
NORMAL, Ill. -- Montini coach Jason Nichols was floored by his own team’s stats following the Class 3A state championship on Saturday.
The third-ranked Broncos committed 24 turnovers, missed 15 layups and shot 36 percent from the field. But they still defeated No. 5 Hillcrest 67-45 to win their second consecutive Class 3A state title at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena.
“Wow,” Nichols responded.
It’s safe to say Saturday’s victory will not be remembered for Montini’s offensive brilliance.
This one was won by the Broncos’ defense.
A game after holding Springfield scoreless in the opening quarter of the state semifinals, Montini (36-1) came close to repeating the feat against the high-scoring Hawks. Hillcrest had entered the contest averaging 78 points a game, but over the game’s first 5:29, it missed 10 shots, committed five turnovers and scored no points.
Montini wasn’t scoring with ease during the same time period, but it was occasionally finding the bottom of the net. The Broncos built an 11-0 advantage before Hillcrest scored its first bucket with 2:31 left in the opening quarter.
The Hawks wouldn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We came out and knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Montini’s Kiki Wilson, who scored nine points. “They’re better than Springfield, so we had to come out and play harder than we did last game. That’s what we did. We came out and did it again. People didn’t think we could do it.”
Most people considered Montini to be the heavy 3A favorite for the entire season, but the Broncos believed there were some skeptics out there and had played that message up. They especially knew Hillcrest (29-3) was seeking revenge after losing to Montini in last year’s state championship game.
“Hillcrest doubted us because their main player was out of the game last year,” Montini senior Whitney Adams said. “They thought that was one of the main reasons why they lost. A lot of other teams thought they just could beat us. But they don’t know all of the weapons we have.”
Adams’ personal weapon is her 3-point shot. After struggling during the early goings of Saturday’s game, even shooting a handful of air balls, Adams eventually found her range, sank four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. She also added nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block.
“In the first half, I shot 3-5 air balls, and I just kept shooting,” Adams said. “Jason just told me to keep shooting, keeping shooting, and I did.”
With Adams and her teammates having their offensive woes during the first half, Notre Dame recruit Whitney Holloway stepped forward. She scored 13 of her game-high 19 points in the first half and helped the Broncos to a 31-15 halftime lead.
“This is amazing,” Holloway said. “To get your first state championship is great, but to get two in a row, that’s just amazing.”
Samira Ali led Hillcrest with 15 points.
Springfield defeated Marshall 53-43 in the third-place game. Springfield’s Zahna Medley scored a game-high 24 points. Keshawnee Alley’s 18 points and 11 rebounds led Marshall.