DOWNERS GROVE – Montini senior linebackers Mike Carver and Jack McWhinney plan on making the most of their delayed opportunity.
Both players patiently waited for their opportunity to make a difference for the storied Broncos’ program. As juniors, Carver and McWhinney both expected to enjoy the fruits of their labor after slowly working their way through the program.
The coronavirus pandemic shortchanged Carver and McWhinney from experiencing a full varsity season with playoff implications. The Broncos played just five games this past season due to St. Joseph having to forfeit.
Thus, after a short offseason, Carver and McWhinney are motivated to make an impact — and play a full season on the varsity. Both players are attempting to build off starting five games at linebacker last season.
“We’re very excited, and we’re hopeful we can make a really far run in the playoffs and maybe at state,” Carver said. “We’ve both waited for this moment for a long time, so we’re hoping for a strong season.”
McWhinney said he benefitted from competing in track and field in the spring. He set a new program record in the discus with a toss of 147 feet, 11 inches at the CCL Championships. McWhinney said he’s noticed a big difference on the football field this summer in 7-on-7s.
“I feel my speed is really up,” he said. “I was strong last year, but I feel faster and my range is better, and I’ll be quicker on the field. I’m ready for the season to start. I felt I really learned a lot from past seniors, so I know what to do this year.
“I feel we all have gotten a lot faster. Most of the team did track last year. We also competed in everything, and had a competitive atmosphere in the weight room.”
Carver, like McWhinney, enters the upcoming season with a goal of returning the Broncos back to the playoffs. Montini suffered uncharacteristic blowout losses to St. Rita and Providence, plus a 13-point defeat to Mt. Carmel. Carver said he’s ready for a breakout season.
“I feel way more comfortable now,” Carver said. “I’ve got the jitters out from the five games we played. The defense is looking strong. We’ve got three returning linebackers. Our defense looks good.
“I did a lot of training in these last few months, feel good after working hard. I’m trying to make all-conference this year: that’s my main goal. I’m way more comfortable about playing on varsity.”
Montini coach Mike Bukovsky acknowledged his players understand the importance of restoring some of the shine back to the program. The Broncos won six state championships from 2004 to 2015 and finished second in Class 5A in 2013, 2014 and 2018.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, building from the bottom up after a short turnaround,” he said. “Physically, I feel we’re in a good place. We’re ready and healthy and got as much good work in the weight room as we could. We just have to catch up mentally, scheme-wise and technique-wise.
“We had a lot of sophomores that ended up on the field last year. That will be helpful since we have a number of starters back on both sides.”
Bukovsky said he’s been encouraged by the play of quarterbacks Cole Teschner and Tre Jones. Bukovsky said the strength of the offense lies in the running game, led by star running back Josh Robinson.
“We have a good strong group of seniors, but are still trying to sort things out,” Bukovsky said. “We think we can be a very balanced offense this year. We haven’t been a balanced offense in a few years. Cole and Tre are both battling at quarterback. We have to do whatever we can do week by week to win games. We have a great running game. Josh Robinson is looking really good. Our wide receivers might be our most improved unit this year.”