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Loss in Class 5A high school football championship game drives No. 7 Montini

The Broncos have played for the state title eight times in the last 10 years. Expectations are always high in Lombard.

Montini’s Deontay Bell receives the snap during a practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Coach Mike Bukovsky and Montini used a two-quarterback system to maximum advantage last season. Deontay Bell tended to run, and Robert Brazziel tended to throw.

The combination helped the Broncos defeat Loyola on the road and advance all the way to the Class 5A championship game, where they lost to Joliet Catholic.

Bell, a senior, returns this season, but Brazziel has moved to Ohio. Bell has been working diligently all summer to improve his passing.

‘‘Deontay is throwing the ball well and got a lot bigger and stronger,’’ Bukovsky said. ‘‘That makes a big difference. He has the tightness and velocity and everything a quarterback has to do to throw the ball. He’s a real dual threat now, running and throwing.’’

Blake Yore, a senior who started high school at Montini before transferring to Oswego, is back with the Broncos. He still is learning the playbook but eventually could be a factor.

Bell and Yore will benefit massively from a stacked stable of receivers. Senior Nate Muersch, a Miami (Ohio) commit, leads the way. Big things also are expected of seniors Paul Flicek and Nick Wind and junior Jalen McBride.

‘‘[Flicek] didn’t get to play last year, but you will see him blow up now that he’s getting an opportunity,’’ Muersch said. ‘‘We have some good guys back, especially Deontay and a lot of good linemen and receivers. Guys that didn’t get an opportunity to play much last season are ready to step up.’’

Senior CJ Bufkin should see time at receiver and running back.

‘‘We have seven or eight receivers that are gonna be in the rotation,’’ Bukovsky said. ‘‘We have good depth at running back. We have three, maybe four, really good backs. We feel good about where we are at, and now it is just a matter of us putting the pieces of the puzzle together and figuring out the rotations we are going to use.’’

Montini returns seven starters on defense, including standout lineman Jeremiah Banks-Wall. Patrick Peters and Cam Richardson join him on the line, and linebackers Brandon Liston and Trevor Swier will be major contributors.

‘‘We had a great offseason; I’m really proud of the guys,’’ Bukovsky said. ‘‘This is our strongest team in six or seven years. We are pretty excited about that. Now it gets into doing things the right way on an every-day basis.’’

The Broncos were 12-2 last season, and their victory at Loyola made a statement to the rest of the area. They were the favorites in the Class 5A title game but lost to the Hilltoppers 35-27.

‘‘Not a day goes by where I don’t think about that game,’’ Muersch said. ‘‘We expected to win; that was the goal all year. We came up short, but it made us so hungry.’’

Montini has played for the state title eight times in the last 10 years. The expectations are always high in Lombard.

‘‘We are proud of that,’’ Bukovsky said. ‘‘We came up a little bit short last year, so that is the focus right now. We have to find a way to finish the season, and that trickles down to finishing every game and finishing every play.’’

The Broncos will be in the new Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Green, with St. Rita, Providence and Notre Dame. Muersch said he thinks the Catholic League and East Suburban merger was long overdue.

‘‘I really like it,’’ Muersch said. ‘‘I don’t know why it wasn’t like that before. I’m glad we get to compete against teams we wouldn’t usually play, like Notre Dame.’’

Montini schedule

Aug. 31 at Hudson, Wis.
Sept. 6 vs. Collins
Sept. 13 at Mount Carmel
Sept. 20 vs. St. Rita
Sept. 27 vs. St. Viator
Oct. 4 at Notre Dame
Oct. 11 at St. Joseph
Oct. 18 vs. De La Salle
Oct. 25 vs. Providence