Goss: A case for Morris ending Montini’s title run
November 21, 2012 6:18PM
Morris Redskins Danny Friend (7), Collin Grogan (26), Jeff Perry (23) and Nick Kelly (35) lead the team onto the field before the start of the game against Sacred-Heart Griffin at Morris, Saturday November, 17, 2012. | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:48AM
After beating Joliet Catholic 40-37 in last week’s Class 5A semifinal, Montini is primed to join the elite list of schools with four consecutive state titles.
Popular opinion seems to be the Broncos (11-2) will have too much firepower for Morris (12-1) in the 10 a.m. Saturday championship game at the University of Illinois.
That means our job here today is to analyze the match-up and see where it is the Redskins may be able to “surprise” after they eliminated highly regarded Sacred Heart-Griffin 30-20 last week.
You know what, it is not an impossible assignment despite Montini’s well-deserved reputation.
“They are a great team,” said third-year Morris coach Alan Thorson, in his first title game as a head coach after having been there twice as a Redskins assistant. “Their tradition speaks for itself. We have a ton of respect for those guys. Coach (Chris) Andriano is as good a coach as there is in the state, and their athletes are pretty good.”
Ah, but there is a flip side.
“What I really like right now is how our kids are playing,” Thorson said. “The focus they had in the semifinal game was something else. These kids impressed me all year, but they played last week like I’ve never seen them before.”
We all know about Montini’s high-powered offense. Who can forget the record-shattering 70-45 win over Joliet Catholic in last year’s 5A final? The current Broncos are averaging 34.5 points, not bad against a decent schedule even if they are not the offensive machine of 2011.
But did you know Morris is averaging 35.6 points, also against a good schedule? Had you been asked, would you have said the Redskins are the higher-scoring team entering the championship game?
The assumption naturally is that Montini allows more points because the Broncos play those wild, wide-open games. Maybe so. Montini allows 20.6 points per game, Morris 14.7.
Or, we may be on to something here. Let’s declare Morris a better defensive team. And what can help a good defense? An offense that controls the ball.
“I didn’t even realize it until later, but we held the ball for 35 (of the 48) minutes against Sacred Heart,” Thorson noted. “If we can keep their offense on the sideline, it’s a huge advantage for us.
“But our defense is tough, too. Montini makes you defend sideline to sideline throwing those short, quick passes, and they are very good at it. Then they hit you with those runs up the middle. I think it will be a fun thing to see our defense go against their offense.”
Montini senior running back Dimitri Taylor is one of the best. He has rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he is averaging 8.0 per carry.
Excellent numbers, indeed.
Who outside this area has heard anything about Morris senior Reese Sobol? Well, guess what. Sobol has rushed for 1,450 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he is averaging 8.2 per carry.
The Redskins back up Sobol with 225-pound Jeff Perry, also standout linebacker bound for Central Michigan who has rushed for 607 yards and averages 7.7 a pop.
Montini is slightly bigger along the line of scrimmage regardless of which team has the ball, but not enough to make an appreciable difference.
The Broncos use Alex Wills, the passer, along with Mark Gorogianis and Joe Borsellino at quarterback in their spread formation. Morris counters with senior Zach Cinnamon, who has fit in so well after transferring from Streator for his senior season.
Yes, Borsellino is one of the state’s best all-around players. He has rushed for 233 yards and caught 66 passes for 725 more.
When he, Taylor or Gorogianis catches one of those quick passes on the perimeter, the pressure immediately is turned up a couple of notches on the defensive backs and linebackers trying to get out there to make the tackle.
Regardless of how well the Morris defense — led by linebackers Perry and Nik Countryman and linemen Danny Friend and Collin Grogan — is able to slow down Montini, you know the Broncos are going to score some points.
A key, as Thorson suggested, will be whether Morris’ offense is able to take time off the clock and finish drives with points. While there is opinion out there to the contrary, I feel that’s a match-up where the Redskins can deliver.
Montini is looking to go to 5-0 in title games with its fourth straight championship.
Morris is 3-6 in state finals. You probably will hear those stats quoted somewhere along the way this weekend, as if that matters to this group of Redskins.
It may not be the “safe” play, but I’m going with Morris 27-24.