When: November 24th, 2018
Where: Memorial Stadium, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1402 S. 1st Street, Champaign, IL, 61820
2018 Records: Montini 12-1, Joliet Catholic 9-4
Last meeting: Montini won 27-13 in the second round of the 2014 Class 5A playoffs
Names to watch: Nick Fedanzo, RB, Montini; Jackson Bruscianelli, LB, Montini; Zach Olson, WR/DB, Montini; Jordan Alvarez, QB, Joliet Catholic; Keenan Hailey, RB, Joliet Catholic; Nick Iannantone, RB, Joliet Catholic
With a 42-20 semifinal win over Sterling last weekend, Montini clinched its eighth title game appearance in the last ten seasons, all but one of which have come in Class 5A. The Broncos now head south to Memorial Stadium to face one of the most storied high school programs in the state of Illinois in JCA, which is back in the playoffs after a two-year absence. The Broncos and Hilltoppers faced each other every year from 2009 to 2014, with Montini capturing five wins, all of which came in the postseason. Two of those victories came in the Class 5A championship game; a late touchdown and two-point conversion gave the Broncos a 29-28 win in 2009, and the 2011 contest was a back-and-forth affair that ended in a 70-45 Montini victory and shattered numerous state title game records. The Bronco offense racked up 392 total yards against Sterling last week, with quarterback Deontay Bell rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown, while Fedanzo carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards and two scores. Robert Brazziel finished 5-for-11 for 147 yards and two touchdown passes to Nate Muersch, while Zach Olson returned a Golden Warrior punt 78 yards for a touchdown. Montini’s offense will be tested by a JCA defense that has held its first four postseason opponents to an average of 13.5 points per game.
Despite struggling at times in the regular season and needing to win their final game to become playoff-eligible, the Hilltoppers have been a completely different team in the playoffs, averaging almost 49 points per game in four postseason contests running the ball out of their double-wing offense. Hailey is the latest in a long line of JCA running backs, following in the footsteps of players like Ty Isaac, Malin Jones, and Josh Ferguson. He has carried the ball 300 times for over 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, while the fullback Iannantone has rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on 150 carries. Alvarez runs the offense efficiently and will occasionally keep the ball himself on run plays, while the Hilltoppers’ offensive line plays aggressively to open up holes for the running backs. They will be a stiff test for a Montini defense that saw five players record double-digit tackles last week against Sterling. Defensive ends Fred Stokes and Frank Conforti both recovered fumbles against the Golden Warriors, while Jermari Harris snagged his eighth interception of the season. This week, look for Montini’s offense to start fast and put the JCA defense on its heels and for the Bronco defense to contain Hailey and the rest of the Hilltoppers’ rushing attack.