Down 3 to Joliet Catholic. Thirty-five seconds left. Montini ball on the Hilltoppers’ 1-yard line.
This meant War.
Joey Borsellino, who 20 seconds earlier saved Montini’s season on a fourth-down conversion, got the play call from his father, Lewis, the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.
“War,” it was — quarterback tucked tight under center. Get low. Everybody push.
“He said, ‘Go under center. All you need is 1 yard and we’ll go to state,’” Joey Borsellino said. “I was like, ‘All right, I’ll get 1 yard, Dad.’ We did. It was great.”
The all-state senior handled Pat Strzempek’s quick snap and, flanked by guards Tate Briggs and Anthony Ferraro, they burrowed in to give Montini a 40-37 Class 5A semifinal win Saturday at Joliet Memorial Stadium and a shot at a fourth straight state title.
“Both teams left it all on the field,” said Montini coach Chris Andriano,” whose Broncos (11-2) advance to next Saturday’s 5A championship against Morris, which beat Sacred Heart-Griffin 30-20.
“They were undefeated in semifinal games here in their history, I think they’re 9-0,” Andriano said of a Hilltoppers program Montini beat in the 2009 and 2011 title games.
“To beat this team here, on this field, in a semifinal? That’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players on our team that are very, very good. It’s great to see them step up to the big stage.”
No. 12 Joliet Catholic (8-5) led 31-14 on Brian Bravo’s 33-yard field goal at 7:38 of the third quarter. No. 3 Montini scored 20 unanswered points to claim its first lead, 34-31 at 8:10 of the fourth.
In an 11-play drive including a 24-yard catch by Tyler Tumpane, Borsellino caught a 6-yard touchdown pass by Alex Wills, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 174 yards.
The defense held, and Borsellino silenced the home fans with a 9-yard touchdown run.
“They’re a great team,” said Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp. “We were able to hold them down early. We scored on every possession in our first half, and it seemed like the second half kind of reversed.”
Hilltoppers quarterback Craig Slowik and USC-bound running back Ty Isaac — who ran for 276 yards and the 22-yard touchdown run to put the Hilltoppers up 37-34 with 4:41 left — were moving when Montini linebacker Charlie Long recovered an Isaac fumble at the Bronco 43-yard line.
“That’s a big one,” Long said. “Isaac’s a great player. We had to step up our game, play fundamental football.”
Wills followed with a swing pass that Dimitri Taylor took 57 yards down the right sideline for the Broncos’ go-ahead touchdown.
“I believe that we’re the best team in the state and nobody can stop us,” said Taylor, who ran for 156 yards with 22- and 46-yard touchdowns in a first half Joliet Catholic led 28-14. “That’s always our personal belief. I never think about losing, never.”
One Montini negative was kicker Andrew Harte’s consecutive extra-point streak was snapped at 112, third nationally, on a block following Borsellino’s winning touchdown.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.