Montini coach Chris Andriano was prepared for another offseason quarterback competition heading into this summer.
After winning their second consecutive Class 5A state championship last season, starting quarterback Matt Westerkamp graduated. The Broncos were in the same position after winning the 2009 title when they had to replace graduating quarterback Brandon Pechloff.
Just as Andriano was getting ready to begin his evaluation of his early candidates, unexpected news changed Montini’s situation.
John Rhode, who had been Marian Catholic’s starting quarterback the past two seasons, transferred to Montini in June for his senior year after his family moved into the area. Like that, Montini had found its starting quarterback, and for the past month, Rhode and the Broncos’ talented wide receivers have quickly found their groove.
Throughout July, Montini’s 7-on-7 offense has proven to be one of the area’s most potent while competing in some of the state’s premier events, including at Bolingbrook, Downers Grove South and Wheaton Warrenville South. At last week’s Red Grange Classic at Wheaton Warrenville South, the Broncos went 6-1 with their only loss coming to defending Class 8A state champion Maine South in the title game.
Montini’s offensive success behind Rhode has arrived sooner than Andriano expected.
“He has in a short period of time come in and picked up our offense really quickly,” Andriano said. “He’s been awesome. Our pass offense is lights out right now. It’s really good.
“He’s got such a presence. He’s smart. He’s quiet, but he’s smart. He’s a playmaker. He’s got touch. He’s accurate. He knows the offense already and it’s been three weeks.”
Last season, Rhode completed 52 of 123 passes for 801 yards and threw nine touchdowns and three interceptions. He helped Marian Catholic to the Class 7A playoffs, where it lost to Wheaton North in the first round.
At Marian Catholic, the offense was dominated by the run. The Spartans ran the ball 381 times last year and passed it 124.
At Montini, Rhode will pass the ball more than he’s ever done before. Last season, the Broncos threw the ball 228 times, and their quarterback led the team in rushing carries.
Rhode has enjoyed the extra responsibility already.
“It’s real fun,” Rhode said. “It’s all about the quarterback and the receivers. They have to have a great relationship. I feel we have it. I fit in well with what they need. They needed a strong-arm quarterback, and I think I bring that to the table.”
“We’re glad to get him,” said Westerkamp, who had 89 receptions for 1,631 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s got an unbelievable arm. He’s already lighting it up.
“All of our receivers were starters last year, so we didn’t have to restart everything and relearn everything. John is doing an unbelievable job coming in here and understanding it. It’s great to have John.”
With Rhode now slated to be the starter for the 2011 season, Montini will attempt to win its third consecutive state championship with its third different quarterback.
“It would be crazy to do it again,” Westerkamp said. “I think we can.”
Rhode was just as optimistic.
“It’s an awesome possibility,” Rhode said. “It’s an opportunity I always wanted. Hopefully, we get it.”