Montini coach Chris Andriano would like to win a fourth consecutive state championship in 2012, putting his program in a class with Driscoll, Joliet Catholic, Providence and Mount Carmel as the only schools in the history of the state playoff to win four or more in a row.
Whether he wins or not, however, it could be his last season.
"I have told the school president (Jim Segredo) and the athletic director (Bob Landi) that next year might be my last year," Andriano said as he closed the book on his 33rd season at the Lombard school.
"I will be 60 years old on Dec. 7. I have completed 33 years as head coach. I am looking at retirement. I'm getting to the point where there is time for someone else to run the show. Next year might be it.
"I have four grandchildren and I like to fish in Canada. This job gets tougher every year. My health is good. But this is a year-round job now. Now it is the college recruiting season. Three college coaches came in today.
"When I started, it was a simpler job. Life was simpler. Football was a simpler game. The off-season wasn't as complicated with recruiting and workouts and weight room and conditioning and planning things out.
"If we weren't winning, life would be simpler. But it's a great problem to have. There's a bigger buildup when you're in the limelight. If you win three state titles in a row, you reach a special category in Illinois high school football. How many teams have done that? You're in a pretty select group. And everyone is gunning for you."
It was a never-to-be-forgotten season, the stuff that dreams and legends are made of...beating Joliet Catholic 70-45 for the state title with a team featuring the best quarterback (John Rhode) and the best player (wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp) that he has produced.
"When you win three state titles in a row, that's off the charts for me," Andriano said. "We've had some good teams but to win three in a row is more special than anything else we've done here.
"Four years ago, I had a great team, maybe my best team, four Division I players, but we lost to Driscoll in Week 9 and lost to Wheaton St. Francis in the quarterfinals. I'm coaching players whose fathers played here. We have a connection with families that goes back to when I first started here. There is great loyalty here."
How do you top it?
"Next year we will have another great group of kids," Andriano said. "Who will be the quarterback? Who will replace Westerkamp? We will have five starters back on offense and three on defense. Every year different kids emerge. It will be another good, solid team."
Andriano will build his 2012 team around versatile Joe Borsellino, who played quarterback, wide receiver, running back and defensive back this season but will be a primary receiver next season. Other standouts will be 6-5, 280-pound guard Tate Briggs, quarterbackwide receiver Mark Gorogianis, 6-3, 255-pound defensive end Fred Beaugard and running back Demetri Taylor.
The coach's game plan calls for Gorogianis to replace Westerkamp at wide receiver. He was Rhode's backup this season at quarterback but Andriano would like to keep him at wide receiver. That means sophomore Jimmy Barron will have to earn the starting spot at quarterback.
"Experience-wise, right now, Gorogianis is our best kid at quarterback," Andriano said. "Barron has to prove he can run the offense and make the right decisions. It's all about decision-making."
Westerkamp can't be replaced, of course. He set state records for pass receiving yardage and touchdowns in a career. "He is the best the state has ever seen at his position, strong and physical, a great blocker, a do-everything type. There is no doubt that he can be a dominant player at Nebraska--and he has a shot at making it in the NFL," Andriano said. "One play in the state championship game that I am more proud of him than of anything else he has accomplished is he ran down Joliet Catholic's Malin Jones after he intercepted a pass. A lot of kids wouldn't have come back to make that tackle. Jordan has great heart. He's a great competitor."
Rhode, the transfer from Marian Catholic who missed the first month of the season with a broken thumb, came on so strong and was so impressive that Andriano insists he has the tools to be a Big 10 quarterback. Unfortunately, he didn't get any exposure last year and most colleges have filled their quarterback slots for next year.
"He has great arm strength and touch to make all the throws," Andriano said. "He sees defenses, reads them, knows our offense, can check down and can throw it away. He will take off and run. He is so smart with the ball. He has zip on the ball. He puts the ball in positions where the receiver can get it and defenders can't. There never has been a quarterback that smart before."
While Andriano contemplates retirement, he admits that a third state championship has only provided him with a greater appreciation for the kids in his program.
"Three state titles is about the hard work and talent we have," he said. "The freshman started in the weight room today (Monday). Everybody else is off until after Christmas. Then next year's team will start working out. When you go 14 weeks with games and get all that extra practice with younger kids, it is a big plus. It gives us plenty of time to work on strength and speed when we get back in January. These kids are committed."