CHICAGO — Something concerning happened in Mount Carmel’s 38-7 win over St. Rita on Friday night that might have the rest of Class 7A on high alert.
It wasn’t that the Carvan put up 38 points against the No. 2-ranked Mustangs in the latest Associated Press poll. It was that Mount Carmel feels like it could reach another level.
“We’re confident, but we hold ourselves to a really high standard, so there’s always room for improvement,” Mount Carmel quarterback Jack Elliott said. “Today, we played a good game, we played good enough to win, but we have a lot to improve on, including myself.”
Mount Carmel (4-0, 1-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) showed off its growth potential early against St. Rita. It seemed like the two teams would compete in a shootout when the Caravan used five plays to go 79 yards down the field to score on a 17-yard pass Kevin Gardner with 9:49 left in the first quarter, and the Mustangs responded with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jett Hilding to Jimmie Maxson III a minute later.
The Caravan adjusted quickly and scored on their next offensive play when Elliott completed a 72-yard pass to Darrion Dupree to take a 14-7 with 8:13 left in the game. That’s when Mount Carmel’s defense changed the trajectory of the game by stopping the Mustangs’ run and forcing turnovers in the air.
Matthew Mucha picked off a pass with 1:30 left in the first quarter that set up a 4-yard Dupree touchdown run. Le’Javier Payne added another interception with 1:00 left in the second quarter that set up a 38-yard field goal to take a 24-7 lead into halftime.
“When he starts throwing the ball, that’s when we can have some fun,” Mucha said. “That’s the fun part.”
Maurice Densmore made it a 31-7 Mount Carmel lead with 4:01 left in the third quarter when he scored on a 57-yard run. Dupree added his third touchdown of the game when he scored on a 5-yard run with 2:05 left in the game.
“We’re confident, but we hold ourselves to a really high standard, so there’s always room for improvement. Today, we played a good game, we played good enough to win, but we have a lot to improve on, including myself.”— Jack Elliott, Mount Carmel quarterback
Dupree caught for 94 yards and rushed for 54, while Desnmore ran for 107 yards and caught for 37 yards. Elliott completed 18 of his 20 pass attempts for 287 yards.
But both Dupree and Elliott agreed the offense can take another step.
“I feel like we could’ve done even more today,” Dupree said. “I felt like we could’ve done way more, but we played our game. We could’ve done better, though.”
St. Rita (3-1, 0-1 CCL/ESCC Blue) struggled to gain momentum offensively, while the defense couldn’t make stops. The Mustangs only moved the ball in Caravan territory once in the second half as the team failed to make little plays to sustain drives.
“We just started missing out on doing the little things right,” St. Rita coach Martin Hopkins said. “When you play a good football team, you can’t do that. You have to do all the little things along the way.”
The Mustangs will try to move on with a matchup against Marmion on Friday, while the Caravan will host Carmel.
Four weeks in, many of the new Caravan starters have started to get acquainted to playing in their roles. But they also know there’s another level to reach if they want to repeat at Class 7A state champions.
“No one can compete with us if we do what we do,” Elliott said. “Especially on offense. We shouldn’t be stopped.”