LOMBARD -- As far as quarterfinal state playoff games go, you can't find one with more intrigue than Saturday's 1 p.m. match-up between Joliet Catholic and Montini.
The Hilltoppers, one of the top programs in Illinois history, have won 13 state championships and fell short in the title game four other times. In recent years, Montini has taken that mantle. The Broncos have won five titles in program history, including the past four Class 5A state championships.
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"This will be another great match-up between two great programs," legendary Montini coach Chris Andriano said.
But it's not just a match-up between two storied programs. They are two programs with a rich recent history of facing each other. Montini beat JCA for the state championship in both 2009 and 2011 and beat the Hilltoppers in the state semifinals last year. In 2010, JCA beat Montini in the regular season.
The quarterfinal meeting will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, at Noon and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, and 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18 and Tuesday, Nov. 19. You can also find it throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
Andriano comes into the game with a 267-119 record in 35 seasons at the helm. The Broncos come in a sparkling 11-0 this season, all while playing one of the toughest schedules in Class 5A. In addition to romping through the Suburban Christian Blue at 7-0, they beat Class 8A powerhouse Maine South in the season opener. Montini even traveled all the way to East St. Louis and came away with a win.
Last week, the Broncos beat Marian Central 40-7, Montini's second win over Marian this season. Senior quarterback Alex Wills had his best game of the season, passing for 304 yards and five touchdowns. He has thrown for 2,329 yards and 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions this season. He has also rushed for three scores.
His top targets in the pass game are Leon Thornton III (51 catches, 904 yards, 13 TD) and Tyler Tumpane (58 catches, 678 yards, eight touchdowns). Andriano coached Tumpane's father, Bill, in basketball at the start of his coaching career.
"We are known for our offense and passing the football," Andriano said. "Our quarterback is having an all-state type of year. (Thornton and Tumpane) are a great inside/outside combination."
But the Broncos have hung their hat on defense this season. They held eight of their 11 opponents to seven points or fewer this season. Ohio State recruit Dylan Thompson leads the way with 12 sacks. Nile Sykes has 68 tackles and nine sacks. Michael Maduko leads the team with 94 tackles.
They will be faced with trying to slow down JCA running back Michael Ivlow. He rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of last week's 45-8 domination of Kaneland. Junior Nick Borgra is the other wing back in JCA's option attack.
Their offensive line is a key, with JB Butler the focus on the line. He returned from a broken ankle last week to help pave the way for Ivlow's big game. Jalen Hansel and Justin Hunter were also all-East Suburban Catholic picks on the line.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers have an all-conference player at every level with end Xavier Hernandez, linebacker Kevin Jensen and defensive back Jackson Shanklin.
The teams arrive in the quarterfinal round battle tested; with each having faced only one team under .500 all season.
- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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