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Drive for 5 in a row begins for Montini football

Montini vaulted into a rare air last season when it won the football program’s fourth consecutive Class 5A state championship. But on Wednesday, the first day of practice for the 2013 season, coach Chris Andriano didn’t feel any different.

“It’s the same thing every year,” said Andriano, who is entering his 35th season. “You get up on this day, you go outside and smell the air, and it smells like football. I love it. It’s the best day.”

Montini begins its drive for five in a row with an established quarterback, a raw offensive line and receiving core and a loaded defense.

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  • Montini Catholic High School, 19W070 16th Street, Lombard, IL 60148, USA

“The standard’s been set for state championships,” said senior linebacker Nile Sykes, who transferred from Oak Park. “Our coaches really put an emphasis on working hard, so we can get back to that point.”

Senior quarterback Alex Wills, who transferred from Wheaton Warrenville South before last season, has grown into his role as the unquestioned starter. Andriano said his footwork, reads and confidence have greatly improved.

Those catching Wills’ passes are less familiar than seasons past. Mark Gorogianis (Northwestern), Joey Borsellino (Western Illinois) and Michael Dusek (Robert Morris) graduated, but Andriano is unfazed.

“We still have very good group of players there,” he said. “It’s been one of our strengths the past five or six years, and I think we have another great group of high school receivers that have a little bit of everything.”

The Broncos also graduated four starters from last year’s offensive line, with senior Anthony Ferraro the only holdover. Andriano and his staff will choose five from a group of eight to 10, and he expects the line to be set after Week 2.

“Every year it’s always a work in progress,” Andriano said. “You just need to find the right five guys to play together.”

Senior defensive end Dylan Thompson (Ohio State), senior cornerback Derrick Curry and Sykes will lead one of the better defenses in the school’s recent history.

“We’re used to those squatty-body guys in there, just plugging holes. But (Sykes) is a hybrid kid,” Andriano said. “We can use him at defensive end, we can use him as an outside linebacker in a blitz situation. We can game plan and move him around, which could really cause some problems for blocking schemes. He’s so quick, it’s amazing.”

The Broncos open their title defense Aug. 30 against 8A powerhouse Maine South. Andriano likes scheduling premier opponents early in the season.

“We want the respect from the state of Illinois, that Montini will play anybody, any place, any time,” he said. “We want to be able to say we can play against these top programs. We’ve gotten our butts kicked a few times by doing it, but as I see it, if we lose, we still win.”

For now, Montini will enjoy the smell of football.

“I’m ecstatic,” Sykes said.

Key dates

Aug. 21: Two-a-day countdown to Tribune’s No. 1 begins

Aug. 30: Opening night, 7:30 vs. Maine South

Oct. 26: Playoff pairings announced

Nov. 1: First round of playoffs begins

Nov. 29-30: Class 1A-8A state championships

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