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Montini's Dylan Thompson (59) tackles Morris' Zach Cinnamon (15) during 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
CHAMPAIGN — The image conjured up in recent years by the phrase “Montini football” is probably a long pass to Jordan Westerkamp or Joe Borsellino, or maybe a twisting, weaving run by Dimitri Taylor.
Hard-nosed, defensive-minded play may not be what quickly comes to mind. But it got the job done for the Broncos Saturday morning when they won their fourth consecutive Class 5A state title, 19-6 over Morris at Memorial Stadium.
Taylor ran 74 yards for a touchdown on Montini’s first offensive play and caught a 48-yard scoring pass from Alex Wills just before halftime. Otherwise, Montini (12-2) was limited to five field-goal tries by Andrew Harte, two of which were successful.
The difference was a Montini defense that gave up 264 yards, but just one touchdown — and that was with 47 seconds left in the game.
It was a marked difference from last year’s final, when the Broncos won the highest scoring playoff game in state history: a 70-45 shootout with Joliet Catholic when they gave up 515 rushing yards and six touchdowns to Ty Isaac.
“Last year the defense didn’t do so [well],” Montini defensive lineman Fred Beaugard said. “We knew this whole season we couldn’t be like
that. ... We had to step it up.”
And the Broncos had to do it against Morris (12-2), which got back to state for the first time since 2007 with a grind-it-out style.
“It was a physical game,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “That’s how we played all year. We’re a smash-mouth, physical team.”
But Beaugard (nine tackles, three sacks) and the rest of the Montini defense kept the Redskins’ ground game mostly in check. Morris rushed for 179 yards, though 70 of them came on two plays.
That got the Redskins out of their comfort zone, which was the Broncos’ game plan.
“We knew that the key to their offense was running the ball,” Beaugard said. “We had to get them into a passing game. Once we do that, our defensive backs have the ability to cover their wide receivers.”
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos leaned on Taylor (18 carries, 165 yards). His early touchdown ended a Montini trend of falling behind early in the playoffs.
“For us to get the lead early was huge,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “I think it got our defense fired up.”
Taylor provided another emotional boost with his scoring catch 2:16 before halftime, which put Montini up 13-0. Harte added field goals of 23 and 31 yards in the third quarter to make it 19-0.
Morris got on the board with Zach Cinnamon’s 33-yard scoring pass to Jeff Perry in the final minute. But it couldn’t keep Andriano from becoming the fourth coach to win four consecutive state titles.
“Four in a row, I’ve got to pinch myself,” Andriano said.