Class 5A: Montini tops Morris for fourth straight title
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org November 24, 2012 4:58PM
Morris' Eric Cockream (14) during the National Anthem before Saturday's IHSA State Championship game between Morris and Montini high schools, hosted at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL. | Paul Bergstrom ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2012 6:28AM
Montini’s Chris Andriano insists he is not worthy of joining the elite trio of coaches who have won four straight state football championships.
“My gosh, look at the names — (Joliet Catholic’s) Gordie Gillespie, (Mount Carmel’s) Frank Lenti, (Providence’s) Matt Senffner,” he marveled. “No, I don’t belong there.”
Count Morris coach Alan Thorson and his players among those who may see it otherwise.
After beating Joliet Catholic 70-45 in the crazy Class 5A championship game a year ago and surviving the Hilltoppers 40-37 in last week’s semifinal, Montini showed Saturday it also can conquer in a smashmouth arena, downing Morris 19-6 for its fourth straight Class 5A title at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
“It was a physical game and it’s how we played all year,” Thorson said. “They hit us and we hit them.
“Honestly, with all the respect we have for their offense, I thought we could hold them to two, three or four scores.”
The problem for the Redskins (12-2) was the inability to score against Montini’s defense, with rotten field position part of that issue. The average starting position for the Redskins’ 11 possessions was their 16-yard line. They never started outside the 20 until they took over at the 22 on their final possession. That’s when they erased the zero from the scoreboard, Jeff Perry culminating the drive with a 33-yard touchdown reception from Zach Cinnamon.
“We felt like we were pinned in all day and it was hard to get out,” said Perry, an All-Stater who doubles as a regular running back and linebacker. “We’d have to punt 70 yards to get out of the hole and that wasn’t going to happen. We’d punt it to midfield and they’re already in scoring range with their All-State kicker (Andrew Harte).”
Andrano said he was expecting that sort of rough-and-tumble morning.
“I really thought it would be a hard, tough, physical battle, more of a low-scoring game,” he said. “This was probably our best defensive game, and our special teams helped a lot. We left points on the field early, but that’s what happens when you play a big, physical, tough opponent like Morris. We had to earn everything.”
Montini (12-2) led 13-0 at halftime thanks to two big plays by running back Dimitri Taylor, and Harte closed the scoring for the Broncos with two second-half field goals.
Taylor’s first touchdown was a 74-yard run on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage. The second was a 48-yard reception of an Alex Wills’ pass over the middle. He caught the ball at the 27 and made a couple of nifty moves before battling into the end zone.
“They designed a good play on the first one and all of us just flowed too much and he cut it back,” Morris linebacker Nik Countryman said of Taylor’s first score. “On the pass we got a slow break on it, and the kid showed his speed and moves after he caught it.
“We had to keep big plays to a minimum to win this game, and they made more of them than us.”
Montini finished with 370 yards of offense to Morris’ 264, with Taylor totaling 165 on 18 carries. The Broncos had a 16-13 edge in first downs. But the field position created an unequal playing field.
“We never thought it was going to be easy, but we thought we could run on them,” Thorson said. “We put some good drives together; our first drive was a good one. But when we did move it, we’d commit a penalty or make a mistake to stop it.”
Reese Sobol rushed for 81 yards on 11 carries for Morris, largely from the I-formation in the first half. Perry got a majority of the carries in the second half, when Morris went to the spread and finished with 69 yards on 11 carries in addition to 54 yards on three receptions.
Redskins quarterback Zach Cinnamon, under pressure whenever he threw, rushed for a net of 29 yards and completed 7-of-16 for 85 yards. He was sacked on a fourth-and-goal from the 6 to end Morris’ next-to-last possession before the Redkins were able to avoid the shutout on their final possesion.
“I am extremely proud of the effort our kids gave,” Thorson said.