Don't ask Chris Andriano to wrap his head around what a fifth consecutive state championship would feel like.
Before the question was completed, the 35th-year Montini coach cut it short: "No, I really don't think about that. Every year is a new proposition, but these guys have high hopes and dreams. Time will tell."
Time tells of the Broncos reaching an air only rival Driscoll (2001-07) has exceeded. Would the players be disappointed if this season ended in a loss?
"Yeah, definitely," said senior linebacker Nile Sykes, who has 10 Division I offers. "We know how to get there, we know what it takes. That's the major goal, but Coach always tells us if it doesn't happen, he'll still be proud of us."
It begins on defense. Only four starters return, but each will be impactful. Ohio State commit Dylan Thompson will anchor the line, Oak Park transfer Sykes and senior Mike Maduko are the established linebackers, and senior cornerback Derrick Curry will be matched up against the opponent's best receiver.
When asked about how imposing the defense could be, Sykes became serious: "(Opponents) better have a plan. We're gonna handle our business out there."
Andriano pointed to Sykes, who had 12 sacks in six games for Oak Park last season, and the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Thompson as leaders and primary playmakers. Sykes, whom Andriano called "so quick, devastatingly quick," will be used in a hybrid role, utilizing his speed in the middle of the field and off the edge. Thompson and his combination of strength, size and speed will wreak havoc on offensive lines.
"We're really looking for that side of the ball, especially early in the season, to be difference-makers for us," Andriano said of the defense. "They're a very mobile group of kids. We should be flying around the field, pursuing things and making plays, and hopefully causing some turnovers."
Eight of the Broncos' offensive starters graduated, but the quarterback was a holdover. Six-foot-2 senior Alex Wills, who transferred from Wheaton Warrenville South before last season, will lead a new-look receiving core headlined by senior Tyler Tumpane and speedy junior Leon Thornton III.
"He's been getting better all the time," Andriano said of Wills. "His footwork is great, he's got a nice release, he's stronger so there's more zip on the ball, and he has a much better understanding of our offense. He's smart, and that's the key for him. If he makes good decisions, we'll be in good shape."
Montini again enters 2013 the favorite in 5A. Despite Andriano's attempts to deflect pressure and expectations away from his team, the coach is reluctantly realistic about making history.
"This opportunity is special," he said. "The guys know it."
Montini at a glance
Last season: 12-2, 6-1, 2nd (tie) Suburban Christian Blue; beat Morris 19-6 in Class 5A state final.
Playoff history: 25 appearances; 5 state titles.
He's back: Alex Wills, Sr., 6-1, 195, QB; Dylan Thompson, Sr., 6-5, 275, DE; Derrick Curry, Sr., 5-10, 175, DB; Mike Maduko, Sr., 5-10, 190, LB.
He's gone: Joey Borsellino, WR (Western Illinois); Mark Gorogianis, WR (Northwestern); Michael Dusek, WR (Robert Morris); Dimitri Taylor, RB (Indiana State).
He's new: Nile Sykes, Sr., 6-3, 225, LB/DE.
Big name: Thompson committed to Ohio State in March. Sykes has offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa St., Northern Illinois, Purdue and Syracuse, among others.
Big game: Aug. 30 against 8A Maine South. The Broncos continue tradition of scheduling powers (including East St. Louis on Sept. 7) as preparation for the conference schedule.
Big question: Can the Broncos buck the heavy pressure and expectations in their drive for five? Will early contests against giants Maine South and East St. Louis knock them off path?
Breakdown: Expect the defense to dominate in 5A, the offense to play smart and under control and more hardware to be added to Montini's trophy case.
Fast fact: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named Montini graduate Garrett Goebel one of five captains before 2012's undefeated campaign. Thompson will try to fill those shoes next season.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun