DEKALB -- With all Montini's success on the football field, the Broncos topped it Saturday.
Montini beat Crete-Monee 38-15 to claim the Class 6A title and reach uncharted territory, its first unbeaten record in 48 seasons of football.
"You never say out loud that you're going to go undefeated, 14-0. You'll never say that out loud. But in the back of my mind I could tell the speed factor for us was going to be a chance for us to beat anybody," said Montini coach Chris Andriano, among seven coaches to have won at least six championships after Nazareth's Tim Racki did the same in the Class 5A game at NIU's Huskie Stadium.
"From freshman year we were a below-.500 team to being the first perfect team to win a state title in Montini history," said senior defensive end Tommy Hyland, whose 7 tackles and 2 sacks helped limit Crete-Monee to 92 yards rushing, 215 yards total.
"This is probably the best feeling I've ever had in my life," he said.
Montini scored 28 unanswered points, rallying from a 15-10 second-quarter deficit to drop the Warriors (11-3). Quarterback Justin Blake's 64-yard touchdown run at 1:13 of the second quarter, cutting inside receiver Tyler Millikan's perimeter block, regained the mojo with an 18-15 halftime lead.
"I was just waiting on the edge to get set. I looked up and I saw Millikan's back was going outside. So I just followed his block and came outside," said Blake, who ran for 192 yards and passed for 104 more of Montini's 506 yards.
"It was real important. We needed that momentum back," Blake said.
Montini had it at the start. On the first play from scrimmage running back Prince Walker bounced 69 yards off right tackle Justin Cajigas to the Warriors' 11-yard line. Walker broke the ice on a 4-yard run at 10:28 of the first quarter.
Walker played with Crete-Monee players such as Xavier Ledet and Juwaun Treadwell when he lived in Crete from the second through fifth grade.
"It was more fun playing against them, just having a good time out there playing against old teammates," said the junior, who ran for 169 yards on 22 carries. "It motivated me to win more, just make sure I got the 'W' against my old town."
Mitch West intercepted on Crete-Monee's first possession and Montini drove 55 yards then settled for Michael Cooney's 30-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
Uninterested in allowing a fifth straight running clock in these championship games, Crete-Monee scored the next 15 points to lead 15-10 with 2:03 left before halftime. The Warriors' Wildcat-style quarterback Clint Ratkovich led the charge -- with throwing QB Isiah Rucker adding a 50-yard completion -- and capped the second drive on a 1-yard run. Datuan Carter added a conversion run.
"We thought we saw something on film where we were able to hit the ball on the perimeter then come back inside. And obviously the 2-point conversion, we knew they were gassed," said Warriors coach John Konecki.
"I thought we had things rolling."
As Konecki added, Montini got back off the canvas with Blake's long touchdown run less than a minute later.
"We just knew we had to tighten up the little things. We knew we could get it done as a team," said middle linebacker John Embrey, who collected a team-high 11 tackles, linebacker Nick Foster notching 10 with 3 for loss.
"Just consistency and perseverance, without a doubt," said two-way lineman Joe Spivak.
Montini scored on its first two possessions of the second half to open a 32-15 lead with 2:50 left in the third quarter. Blake scored on a 1-yarder between center Sam Detmers and Spivak at right guard, and Walker added a 5-yard run.
Montini didn't let Crete-Monee outside its own 48-yard line thereafter. Walker scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard run with 5:54 left to play as the Broncos readied the Gatorade cooler.
"This is the best team that we've ever had record-wise, defense-wise, speed-wise," Andriano said, "just a great group of young men to work with and they bought into everything we were selling. Here we are at the top of the mountain again, it feels really good."