Mount Carmel comes back to defeat Loyola 42-37 in battle of state’s elite

Caravan win CCL/ESCC Blue title, finish regular season undefeated

Mount Carmel quarterback Blainey Dowling  helped lead a Caravan comeback to defeat Loyola, 42-37, on Saturday in Wilmette. The Caravan finished the regular season undefeated and won the CCL/ESCC Blue title.

WILMETTE — Mount Carmel needed one last stop to win the game of the year.

The Caravan held a 42-37 lead over Loyola on Saturday with 1:26 left in the game and the Ramblers needed two yards to pick up a first down or the game was essentially over.

Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney took the snap at the Mount Carmel 38 and threw it to his left where he expected to see a receiver catch the ball.

Instead, the receiver kept running and the ball dropped.

Mount Carmel’s sideline erupted while Loyola players and fans couldn’t believe what just happened.

The Caravan overcame a halftime deficit on the road to win 42-37, capture the CCL/ESCC Blue title and finish the regular season undefeated.

“You come to Mount Carmel to win championships,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “You don’t just come here to play games. We play championship football here.”

Mount Carmel (9-0, 4-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) overcame a 24-14 halftime deficit quickly in the second half by taking advantage of opportunities. After forcing a Loyola three-and-out, Denny Furlong returned a punt to the Loyola 23 and Mount Carmel scored on the third play of the drive when quarterback Blainey Dowling ran the ball in for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 24-21 Loyola with 8:10 left in the third quarter.

Stearney faced pressure on the first play of the Ramblers’ next drive and fumbled the ball on what the Loyola sideline thought was a pass attempt. The Caravan jumped on the opportunity and scored when Damarion Arrington rushed in for 7 yards to score and give Mount Carmel its first lead of the game, 28-24, with 7:57 left in the third quarter.

“That’s the defense making plays,” Dowling said. “Defense wins championships, at the end of the day defense wins championships. They’re number was called, they made a huge play and we capitalized. It comes down to the defense at that point.”

Mount Carmel grew its lead when Alonzo Manning III scored on a 18-yard run to make it 35-24 with 1:43 left in the third quarter. Manning stepped up after starter Darrion Dupree didn’t play in the second half with an injury,

Loyola responded quickly on its next drive when Will Nimesheim rushed in 3 yards to make it a 35-30 with 45.6 seconds left in the third quarter but Mount Carmel grew its lead to 42-30 when Dowling hit Darrion Gilliam with a 12-yard scoring pass with 7:37 left in the game.

The Ramblers came back to make it 42-37 with 5:40 left in the game when Stearney hit Spencer Leadbetter with a 23-yard touchdown pass and stopped the Caravan on their next drive, but Loyola couldn’t score to win the game.

Dowling completed 16 of his 29 passes for 144 yards, throwing three touchdowns, while also rushing for 33 yards and one touchdown. Dupree had 81 rushing yards and Denny Furlong had 78 receiving yards and one touchdown. Danyil Taylor Jr. also caught a touchdown.

“Deal with adversity,” Dowling said. “We say that every single week, deal with adversity. It’s come out over come it.”

Loyola (8-1, 3-1 CCL/ESCC Blue) took an early lead with a 45-yard field from Michael Baker with 8:43 left in the first quarter and Stearney, Quinn Foley and Nimesheim each rushed for a touchdown in the first half for the Ramblers.

Stearney completed 13 of his 31 passes for 180 yards, throwing one touchdown, and rushing for 62 yards and another score. Nimesheim ended the day with 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Ultimately for Loyola, the team couldn’t overcome a third quarter where it seemed like everything went right for Mount Carmel.

“Coaches as well as the players can get better from this,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “Just know what we do well, what we should’ve done, locking things. It’s a learning experience for sure.”

Loyola will now wait for its opening opponent next week in the 8A playoffs while Mount Carmel will do the same for the 7A bracket.

The goal for Mount Carmel was always to win a division title and then a state title. The Caravan took care of part one, but they’re not satisfied just yet.

“We knocked down one of our goals,” Dowling said. “Nine and zero isn’t our goal, though. Our goal is 14-0.”