CHAMPAIGN — For just the second time in IHSA football history, a team has now won four straight state titles in a single class. Via its 19-6 win over Morris in the Class 5A championship on Saturday, the Montini Broncos join Joliet Catholic Academy (4A - 1975, 76, 77, 78) as the only team to claim four titles in a row. Addison Driscoll has the all-time Illinois record for seven straight titles over two classes.
"Our congratulations go out to Montini, coach (Chris) Andriano and their players. I can't say enough about their players," Morris coach Alan Thorson said.
Montini got two big plays on offense and parlayed that into a 13-0 lead at halftime. Dimitri Taylor scored on a 74-yard TD run and he scored again on a 48-yard TD pass from Alexander Wills.
"I think it comes down to everyone doing their job and relying on that guy to do their job. Pretty much everyone is focused on their job and doesn't worry about other people doing their job," Morris senior captain and linebacker Nik Countyman said. "We should have been fine. We had some misdirection plays, but I don't know. They're a pretty good team. A big-play team."
"I don't know what they were running, but scouting them we knew that they were a big-play offense," Morris senior captain Danny Friend said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of shutting them down except for those two plays."
Taylor's run came on the first play from scrimmage for the Broncos on a run over right end and Andrew Harte's PAT kick made it 7-0. Montini then scored in the second quarter when Wills found Taylor downfield and he juked his way the final 15 yards or so into the end zone. Harte's PAT kick was blocked by Collin Grogan, however, and the lead stayed at 13 at half.
"I thought we handled their high-powered offense. We felt coming in that we could hold them," Thorson said. "I was just a little disappointed offensively in our performance."
Morris had five first downs at the intermission to 13 by Montini. The Redskins also were able to get just 139 yards on offense in 27 plays.
"We were fighting field position," Thorson said. "When you are punting it out of your own end zone each time, the other team is going to have good field position no matter what."
Andrew Harte kicked a 23-yard field goal on the first drive by the Broncos after half and the lead grew to 16-0. Montini's lead then went to 19-0 on a 31-yard field goal by Harte at 1:57 of the third quarter.
Morris' lone score came on a 33-yard TD pass from Zach Cinnamon to Jeff Perry with just :47 remaining in the game.
Perry said that part of the problem with Morris offense was bad field position, but it was not the whole story.
"I'm not saying that's the whole thing. There were a few drives in which we could not get it going," he said. "We'd get a penalty or we'd get sacked. It wasn't just field position. Our offense just didn't have the fire we normally have."
For the game, Morris ended with 264 total yards of offense to 370 by Montini.
"Not moving the ball is really frustrating. Something wasn't clicking," Morris senior captain Craig Claire said. "We'd get one good play and then we'd usually build on that. Today we just couldn't get the flow going like we had all season."
Reese Sobol led Morris with 81 yards on the ground but 45 of that total came on the third play of the game. Perry had 69 yards and Cinnamon 29 as Morris had 179 yards on the ground.
"I thought we had some success in the I(-formation). We tried to do a little bit of our smash-mouth football in T(-formation), and we got some first downs out of it, but we knew they (the Broncos) were going to tighten down on defense," Thorson said. "So, going into the spread gives us some options with Zach. I thought we did a good job in it."
Cinnamon completed 7-of-16 passing for 85 yards, but he was also sacked four times. Part of that, combined with a couple of fumbles that the Redskins recovered themselves on offense and a handful of untimely penalties led to Montini winning the field position battle.
"To me, that was the story of the game — field position. We were fighting the field the whole day," Thorson said. "Coach Andriano mentioned it in an earlier interview that field position and special teams were going to be the game and really, they were."
Despite it all, Morris did play a team on a historic run very close.
"I'm not going to take the easy way out and say, 'oh, they've won four in a row so we did a good job by keeping this close'. Of course, getting second is not what we came here for and we're upset about that," Perry said. "I feel like things could have gone our way a little more. If we hadn't been pinned back like that, it could have been a closer game."
No matter the outcome, however, Thorson said that his team showed the kind of Redskins pride he was wanting to see this year.
"I'm extremely proud of the effort of the kids," Thorson said. "I couldn't ask more from this senior class. I'm proud of them. It's been a heck of a ride."