Brother Rice’s ground game powers it past Mount Carmel, into Class 7A semifinals

CHICAGO – Minutes after leading his team to a monumental victory over an arch rival and state mainstay, Jack Lausch found himself surrounded by youngsters clamoring for a shot at the star.

Many snapped selfies and exchanged high-fives with Brother Rice’s standout quarterback, while one even asked for his jersey.

Lausch hasn’t quite gotten to the jersey-exchanging stage in his career quite yet, but more performances like Saturday certainly may help get him there.

The Notre Dame baseball recruit who hopes to play two sports in college showed exactly why he believes he can be valuable on a football field as he rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns to lead the ninth-seeded Crusaders to a 41-28 win over Mount Carmel on Saturday at Tom Mitchell Field in a Class 7A quarterfinal.

With Mt. Carmel (8-3) having all but eliminated Brother Rice’s dangerous air attack with two first half interceptions, the Crusaders looked to their quarterback and running back Aaron Vaughn to make a difference on the ground. They did that and more, combining for 429 yards, most during a second half in which Brother Rice (10-2) scored 35 points.

“(Mt. Carmel) had a good gameplan, and they played it well,” Lausch said. “They tried to eliminate big plays. There’s a lot we can get better at, but when we can run the football, that’s a big deal.

“Mt. Carmel’s a good program, especially if you see them twice they can make adjustments from the first game. It’s about finding anyway to win, and I’m proud of the way we fought and the way we played offensively and defensively.”

The very first play of the second half set the tone for that ground attack. Trailing 7-6, Vaughn took the handoff and burst through a sizable hole and raced 80 yards for a score that gave the Crusaders their first lead of the day at 14-7 following the two-point conversion.

“I knew if the passing game wasn’t going to get going, then I had to make a play,” Vaughn said of his second of three touchdowns on the day. He later added a 49-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. “It’s the linemen. It was a huge hole, and I just ran through it. That was it from there and it turned into a track meet. We came to play. We were here to stay.”

Big plays and points marked an entire second half that continued with a 20-yard scoring run by Lausch to make it 21-7 with 4:49 to go in the third quarter.

At that point, it looked as if the Crusaders were ready to pull away. But Vaughn wasn’t kidding when he said this turned into a track meet because the Caravan found a way to answer.

Quarterback Blainey Dowling, who proved to be almost as dangerous on the ground with 153 yards, completed a big 17-yard pass on fourth down before scampering in from 17 yards out to make it 21-13. Enzo De Rosa ran 16 yards on a jet sweep for a touchdown before Joseph Thompson’s 50-yard burst with 6:59 left to play tied the game at 28-28.

But Mt. Carmel just couldn’t find an answer against a Brother Rice team that had just two completed passes in the second half and ran the ball on 25 of its 30 second-half plays, including its last 13.

An outstanding spin move to escape a tackle allowed Lausch to go 17 yards for the go-ahead score with 4:26 left before the defense came up with the biggest stop of the game. Khary Shaw picked off a Dowling pass at Mt. Carmel 28-yard line, setting up short field with a short clock.

Lausch all but ended the drama with a 1-yard run with 1:25 to play.

“When you get two offenses that no huddle, that can definitely hurt your defense, especially if you don’t have any depth,” said Brother Rice coach Brian Badke. “But we’ve established some depth with our injuries, and we’ve made some plays when we had to, and that big interception was great and we capitalized on that.

“In the end, I thought our offensive line really dominated the line of scrimmage and the defensive guys made some plays.”

Dowling finished 16-of-34 passing for 132 yards and two interceptions.