Montini wins third straight title in a shootout

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Whoever coined the phrase “defense wins championships” would have had to eat his or her words on Saturday, when Joliet Catholic and Montini put on an offensive show that had never before been seen in an Illinois state football championship.

When the scoreboard operator was finally done adding up the numbers in the Class 5A state championship, Montini stood victorious for the third consecutive year with a 70-45 win over Joliet Catholic at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

The two teams combined for a state-record 115 points, 16 touchdowns and 1,644 yards, including 1,013 rushing yards.

“Oh, my God,” said Montini senior Anthony Taylor, who accounted for 113 receiving yards and one touchdown. “Our coach told us it was going to come down to the offense. He told us we had to keep scoring, keep scoring. No matter how far we got ahead, we had to keep scoring. That’s what we did.”

The game will be remembered for its individual stars more than anything. Two players left their footprints all over Memorial Stadium’s field unlike many high school or college players have done before.

Joliet Catholic junior running back Ty Isaac broke the state title game’s rushing record in the first half alone on Saturday. He ran for 376 yards in the first two quarters, breaking the previous record of 373 yards, set by Dakota’s Jake Apple in the Class 1A state championship on Friday.

Isaac finished with 515 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 26 carries. He had touchdown carries of 71, 63, 56, 66, 2 and 69 yards.

“That kid is an unbelievable football player,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “We did everything we could to stop him, and we couldn’t stop him.”

Montini senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp's day was just as impressive. Westerkamp set the state title game record for receiving yards (331) and longest reception (94 yards).

Westerkamp, a Nebraska recruit, finished with 11 receptions for 331 yards and five touchdowns. He had touchdowns of 3, 54, 5, 69 and 94 yards.

“He made some great catches when we covered him, and there were some catches that we didn’t cover very well that turned into big runs,” Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp said.

Montini (12-2) won by a comfortable 25 points, but the Broncos didn’t build that cushion on Joliet Catholic (11-3) until late in the game. Montini trailed for portion of the third quarter and only led 49-45 when the fourth quarter began.

Contrary to the rest of the game, Montini’s defense proved the biggest difference down the stretch. The Broncos forced and recovered fumbles on two consecutive possessions at the end of the third quarter that allowed Montini to make it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos’ defense also held strong on Joliet Catholic’s final four possessions and shut out the Hilltoppers in the fourth quarter.

Outside of that, the game was completely offensive. The teams were tied 14-14 after one quarter. Joliet Catholic led 31-28 at halftime. Montini led 49-45 after three quarters.

“It’s very humbling when someone scores that many points on you,” Sharp said. “That was a tremendous offense out there. We picked a bad day to not play well on defense. Their skilled people are as good as we’ve seen, especially Westerkamp.”

Montini’s state championship was the fourth in the history of the program. Andriano has coached the Broncos to all of them.

“We keep reaching and trying to get better, and all of guys and players believe,” Andriano said. “It means a lot. We’re at a level of football now that just says, ‘Wow.’”

Montini junior wide receiver Joey Borsellino struggled to put his emotions into words afterward.

“I can’t even stop crying,” said Borsellino, who scored two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.

Montini quarterback John Rhode, who transferred from Marian Catholic for this year, was 29-of-45 passing for 587 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.

Joliet Catholic running back Malin Jones, a Northwestern recruit, rushed for 197 yards. He also intercepted a pass.

Montini’s Franklin Bruscianelli had a game-high 20 tackles, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble.