Ditka inspires Maine South in Classic

Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti is congratulated Wednesday during the inaugural Red Grange Classic. Scott Powers for ESPN.com

WHEATON, Ill. -- Maine South continued Wednesday where it left off last football season.

Coming off its third consecutive Class 8A state title, Maine South won the inaugural Red Grange 7-on-7 Classic on Wednesday by going undefeated against seven opponents, including two other defending state champions, at Wheaton Warrenville South.

The Hawks defeated defending Class 5A state champs Montini 20-19 in the championship game. The Broncos pulled within one point with just over a minute remaining, but Maine South broke up a pass and held on a two-point conversion as time expired.

"I think this sets a nice measuring stick," Maine South senior running back Paul Preston said. "But it's a whole different game with pads on. We still have to prepare ourselves.

"Everything's been clicking really well lately. We're looking good. We're working hard in practice. It's all paying off."

The Hawks' offense, which is led by Preston and returning starting quarterback Matt Alviti, was highly potent all day. Maine South scored four touchdowns or more in its first six games on Wednesday.

Against defending Class 7A state champions Wheaton Warrenville South in pool play, Maine South rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final minute with a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force overtime. Maine South prevailed 34-28 over the Tigers in double overtime.

Maine South coach David Inserra felt his team especially benefited from a talk that Mike Ditka gave the entire tournament field in the morning.

"We listened to coach Ditka at the beginning, and he talked about the will," Inserra said. "That was kind of our theme for the day -- the will to win, the will to move onto to the next play, forget about the last one. I thought we had an exceptional effort from ... I can't name enough guys."

Montini's offense wasn't far behind. The Broncos' only loss of the day was to Maine South. They defeated Wheaton Warrenville South 28-20, Glenbard West 13-7, New Trier 19-6 and Barrington 27-7 in pool play and then Barrington 25-6 and Wheaton Warrenville South 25-13 in the tournament.

Montini quarterback John Rhode, a transfer from Marian Catholic, was constantly connecting with returning wide receivers Joseph Borsellino, Anthony Taylor and Nebraska recruit Jordan Westerkamp.

"I'm very pleased with our overall performance," Montini coach Chris Andriano said. "The kids competed. We got some skilled players. That game [against Maine South] could have went either way. So, it was a very productive day for us."

In the third-place game, Glenbard West defeated Wheaton Warrenville South.