Montini linebacker Tyler Quick was as shocked as anyone to see quarterback Alex Wills throw three interceptions in the first half of Saturday’s Class 5A playoff opener against Morgan Park.
But he wasn’t surprised at how Wills and the No. 4 Broncos responded to the early adversity. Montini’s defense forced five turnovers and held the visiting Mustangs to 90 yards of total offense, and Wills recovered to throw three touchdown passes and run for another score as the Broncos won 43-6 in Lombard.
“It’s really unusual for Alex to perform like that because we rarely turn the ball over, but we took it in our hands,” Quick said. “The defense needed to step up against a good offense and that’s what we did.”
That’s why the Broncos (10-0), who extended their playoff winning streak to 21 games, were never threatened even though Wills was picked off by Morgan Park safety Jevaughn Morgan on the first two drives of the game. Joshua Belt answered the first turnover by intercepting Timothy Smith and the Broncos pushed the Mustangs (5-5) backward on the series following the second pick.
“Of course I’m smiling because our team won,” Wills said. “Individual stuff doesn’t really matter to me. What matters is the team. I’ve got to do my job as the leader of the offense. I’ve just got to make better reads and hopefully come out better next week.”
Wills was good enough, finishing 23-of-33 for 274 yards. He scored on a one-yard run to open the scoring and then, after the ensuing kickoff bounced off one of the upbacks and was recovered by Montini, drove the Broncos 56 yards in six plays, including a pair of 21-yard completions. Nicholas Italia scored from four yards out to make it 15-0 late in the first quarter.
Montini scored on four straight possessions. Wills tossed a 32-yard rainbow to Leon Thornton for the third touchdown and then, after Quick made the first of his two interceptions, completed four straight passes for 51 yards to set up a 15-yard scoring run by Italia that made it 29-0.
“I’ll give my receivers credit,” Wills said. “They made some good plays. I think also I just calmed down after the first couple interceptions, so I think that was a big part of it.”
Morgan Park scored its only points when Deonte Thomas intercepted Wills and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with 3:54 left in the second quarter.
But Quick had another interception in the third quarter and Wills fired a three-yard touchdown pass to Thornton and a one-yarder to Connor Costello.
Costello caught eight balls for 67 yards, while Thornton (89 yards), Stephen Dennis (66 yards) and Tyler Tumpane (61 yards) all had six receptions. Italia added 146 yards rushing on 15 carries for the Broncos, who will visit conference rival Marian Central next week in the second round. Montini beat Marian Central 40-35 in the regular season.
“We’ve got to play better,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “We were very sloppy today in certain things. Our defense played great, our special teams were okay and our offense turned the ball over. We can’t have that. We’re not going to get very far [playing] like that.”