Montini aims for fourth in a row

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Montini aims for fourth in a row

As he packed his bags for his annual fishing excursion to his favorite hideaway in Canada, Montini football coach Chris Andriano was reminded about the past, the present and the future. Even the thought of a Walleye tugging on the end of a lure couldn't change that.

"Retirement? I'm getting close. I retired from teaching this year. I've got a plan for three more years," said the 60-year-old Andriano. "If my health is good and they want me to stick around...we'll see. I'll re-evaluate after three years. But my grandchildren are getting to the point of being more active. I want to watch them do things."

Andriano insists he has no goals left to achieve, no more worlds to conquer. "I've accomplished everything I could possibly think of," he said.

Or has he?

In his 33-year career, Andriano has posted a 244-117 record, a winning percentage of .676. He has produced four state championship teams--2004, 2009, 2010, 2011.

If he wins another title in 2012, he would equal the achievements of three legendary coaches who won four state titles in a row--Joliet Catholic's Gordie Gillespie in 1975-78, Mount Carmel's Frank Lenti in 1988-91 and Providence's Matt Senffner in 1994-97.

Andriano is cautiously optimistic about his 2012 squad. How do you replace Jordan Westerkamp, the sensational wide receiver who has taken his record-breaking act to Nebraska? How do you improve on last year's 70-45 victory over Joliet Catholic in the Class 5A final?

And how about this? Despite all of his success--he is 45-9 in the last four years--he never has coached an unbeaten team.

"Will this be my best team ever?" Andriano said. "It is to be determined. It will be pretty hard to top the last few years in certain ways. This is a very good team overall. We're planning on a deep playoff run. We have good leadership, overall athleticism, very good athletes at all positions and a very good group of linemen.

"But I don't think of winning four in a row. We just want to prepare these kids for what they will see, a target on everybody's schedule. We try to look at things in the short term. You can't be looking too far ahead. Four in a row would be awesome. But it would be about a lot of people."

It will start out with a bang on Aug. 24. Montini will open at Palatine, Andriano's alma mater. On that night, Palatine will induct Andriano into its Hall of Fame.

So how did he approach his players on Wednesday, the first day of practice?

"The first thing we talk about is being in shape and mentally ready and prepared to play 14 games," Andriano said. "We want to practice on Thanksgiving Day and play on the final weekend.

"It is a process. It is a lot of hard work. A lot has already gone into this. We have the right ingredients to make it happen. Our philosophy always is the same--do your best."

Andriano credits offensive coordinator Lewis Borsellino for much of the success. A graduate of Montini and a former assistant at Maine South, Borsellino joined Andriano's staff five years ago and brought Maine South's high-powered offense with him. "Look at the results. We put points on the board," Andriano said.

Football has become a monster at the Lombard school...new uniforms for this season, a 3,000-seat playing facility with artificial turf for the second year, lights for the third year. "There is an air of excitement for the football program," Andriano said.

In Westerkamp's absence, the leader of the 2012 squad will be Joey Borsellino, Lewis' son and the eighth Borsellino to play for Andriano. The senior wide receiver brings an intensity and love for the game that Andriano had as a high school star. Last year, he caught 70 passes for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"He is Montini. He lives and eats and breathes Montini, like Westerkamp," Andriano said about the youngster. "He is demanding. He understands what it takes to win."

The line features 6-foot-4, 290-pound guard Tate Briggs, 6-foot-3, 255-pound end Fred Beaugard and 6-foot-6, 260-pound junior end Dylan Thompson, whom Andriano describes as one of the leading underclass linemen in the Chicago area.

Tailback Dimitri Taylor, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior, rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. He is being recruited by Eastern Illinois and Illinois State. With Taylor's experience and athleticism, the running game can be expected to be a bigger part of Montini's offense in 2012.

Others to watch are senior wide receiver Mark Gorogianis and kickerpunter Andrew Harte, described as "the best kicker I have had" by Andriano.

Andriano has produced a string of gifted quarterbacks in recent years, all of whom scared the daylights out of opposing secondaries. But this is a rare occasion when he goes into preseason practice without knowing who his starting quarterback is. He insists that will change very quickly.

The job will be given to junior Jimmy Barron, a transfer from Wheaton Warrenville South who was the starter on the sophomore squad last year, or junior Alex Wills, who was the backup on the sophomore squad last year.

"It is pretty even. They battled all summer. But I'm looking to make a decision in the first week of practice," Andriano said. "We don't have a Division I quarterback. We won't throw as much this year, especially early. But I am confident one of them will take charge. We must do a good job of teaching the quarterback to handle the ball and not turn it over."

The names may be different. But the game is the same. So is the philosophy.

"We've been through this. We know what we are doing," Andriano said. "When you are in it long enough, you learn what you have to do to get ready and what to prepare for. We have learned a process or system of preparing for games. Our kids are very well prepared."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.

Jonathan Toews' four-point night paces Blackhawks past Canucks

Jonathan Toews' four-point night paces Blackhawks past Canucks

Jonathan Toews has been doing a lot of things right this season. The offensive production, however, has been hit and miss as the Blackhawks' captain looked for the same consistency on the score sheet he had in the rest of his game.

On Sunday, he hit pay dirt.

Toews recorded a four-point night, including the game-winning goal, and Corey Crawford won his 200th career game as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks remain in second place in the Western Conference. They and the Minnesota Wild each have 65 points, but the Wild still have three games in hand.

It was a milestone night for a few Blackhawks. Marian Hossa had an empty-net goal late to record his 400th point in a Blackhawks uniform. Toews' three assists put him 13th all-time among Blackhawks in that category with 331. Brian Campbell recorded his 500th career point.

Richard Panik had a goal and an assist.

The Blackhawks had arguably their best start of the season in this one, outscoring the Canucks 2-0 (Panik and Patrick Kane) and outshooting them 18-9. But in less than a minute in the third period, the Blackhawks lost the lead, thanks to Troy Stecher's power-play goal and Bo Horvat's rebound goal.

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But Toews, who played his part in the Blackhawks' start, was there for the finish. Panik's late third-period shot caromed off the backboard and went right to Toews, who scored for the 3-2 lead with 1:18 remaining in regulation.

"I guess the goals have scored lately are just getting those bounces and being in the right spot at the right time. Nice to get that one on my stick," Toews said. "I just keep telling Hartsy (Ryan Hartman) and Panner to keep shooting — they both have unbelievable shots — and we're going to generate stuff whether it hits the end wall, goes in or hits the guy's pads. We'll find something around the net. It's nice to get that bounce late in the game."

The Blackhawks had some bad luck — and Michal Kempny had a rough shift or two — during the Canucks' third-period comeback. It was a bit of frustration at the time, but coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks kept their cool.

"I still thought we didn't get away from our game at that point, which could have happened," he said. "Finding a way to get it to overtime or scoring a late goal tonight is something our guys have been good at. Just (the) play at the net, Johnny in the right spot with the finish. I still thought we kept our composure at that point."

Crawford, meanwhile, stopped 25 of 27 shots and looked better than he has in some recent outings.

"We gave him some looks where he could feel comfortable again, and he had some great plays in close from post to post on their power plays, especially in the second," Toews said. "He was finding them all night. Nice to see Crow play the way he did tonight and obviously he was a big part, as usual, in the win."

The Blackhawks had a bit of a gaffe early in the third period, but they were able to weather it. Toews has been steady in most facets of his game this season but was looking to build on his production. Sunday’s game was a step in the right direction.