Loyola holds off Mount Carmel 23-21, gets revenge in game of year

Ramblers end season undefeated, win CCL/ESCC Blue title

Loyola's Michael Baker caught a touchdown and kicked a field goal to lead the Ramblers past Mount Carmel 23-21 on Saturday in Wilmette.

WILMETTE – Michael Baker wanted to show that he could do more than just make long field goals and punt for Loyola.

That changed in the biggest game of the season against Mount Carmel on Saturday.

Baker caught a touchdown to get the scoring going for Loyola and made the go-ahead field goal to help the Ramblers knock off the Caravan 23-21, earning revenge for last year’s loss and winning the CCL/ESCC Blue.

“Everyone knew when the schedule first came out that this was going to be the biggest game of the year and it was going to be a battle,” Baker said. “It was and it was awesome. It was nice to get some revenge.”

Loyola (9-0, 3-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) quickly took advantage on its first drive based on what it learned from last year’s loss to Mount Carmel. The Ramblers changed a play to have the ball go to Baker up the field after the play just missed last year.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald found Baker in the middle after Baker got ahead of the Caravan defender, who slipped. Baker sprinted 65 yards to the end zone to give Loyola a 7-0 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

Loyola made it a 14-0 lead when Fitzgerald ran it in himself for a 19-yard score with 9:04 left in the second quarter and Baker made it 17-7 when he made a 47-yard field goal with 20.1 seconds left in the second quarter. The Ramblers added a touchdown on a nine-yard run for Fitzgerald to make it 23-7 with 6:55 left in the game.

Fitzgerald completed six of his 19 attempts for 213 yards and ran for 110 yards while running back Drew MacPherson finished with 62 rushing yards. Baker had one catch on the day but it made the difference in getting revenge.

“It’s been stressing me out,” Baker said. “I just love the game of football, part of that is playing another position other than kicker. I’m glad I got that opportunity to make something happen offensively. I’m glad I executed.”

Mount Carmel (8-1, 2-1 CCL/ESCC Blue) marched back into the game when quarterback Jack Elliott found Maurice Densmore III for a 28-yard touchdown to make it a 23-15 Loyola lead with 11:54 left in the game. The Caravan failed to score on their next possession but moved the ball up from their own 15-yard line with 8:44 left in the game and scored on a 10-yard pass from Elliott to Darrion Gilliam to make it 23-21 Loyola with 3:13 left in the game.

“Everyone knew when the schedule first came out that this was going to be the biggest game of the year and it was going to be a battle. It was and it was awesome. It was nice to get some revenge.”

—  Michael Baker, Loyola senior

Mount Carmel tried to tie the game on a two-point conversion but the pass attempt missed near the goal line. Loyola picked up a first down on its next drive to end the game.

“That wins games,” Fitzgerald said of the defense’s stop. “For them to stop them on that two-point and stop them down at the start of the game, those plays win games. For our offense that’s a huge confidence booster.”

Elliott finished the day with 264 passing yards, completing 21-of-31 attempts, while also rushing for 65 yards. Running back Darrion Dupree finished with 51 rushing yards while Densmore ended the day with 173 receiving yards.

The Caravan drove all the way to the Loyola 2 on its first drive but the Ramblers stopped them on fourth down. Loyola stopped Mount Carmel on fourth down two more times while the Caravan were deep in Loyola’s territory.

“They scored in the red zone, we didn’t score in the red zone,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “You have to come away with points in the red zone. It’s the name of the game.”

Both the Ramblers and the Caravan will now wait to see who they’ll play to start the postseason next week. Loyola will play in Class 8A and try to defend its 8A title while Mount Carmel will try to defend its 7A title.

Loyola wanted to get revenge and beat Mount Carmel this season and repeat as state champions. With one task done, there’s only one more thing left to do.

“We checked one of those off,” Fitzgerald said. “Now we’re on to our next goal.”