High school football: No. 1 Mount Carmel beats No. 2 Loyola

No. 1 Mount Carmel at No. 2 Loyola. The hype had been building since August. Both teams took care of business throughout the season and arrived in Wilmette on Saturday with perfect records. Neither team had even been tested.

There were 11 touchdowns and multiple big plays from some of the area’s best players. But the crucial moment in the Caravan’s 42-37 victory came from unknown sophomore backup quarterback/punter Jack Elliott with 10:05 left to play.

Elliott’s 18-yard pass to Damarion Arrington on a fake punt kept Mount Carmel’s key drive alive. A few plays later Blainey Dowling connected with Darrion Gilliam on a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Caravan a 12-point lead and the cushion they needed to pull out the win.

“Jack saved the game right there,” Dowling said. “He saved the game.”

Loyola coach John Holecek: “That was a rough one.”

Elliott has been practicing the play all season. That’s four months of work and preparation for one moment in front of a massive crowd on live television in the game of the year.

“Blainey always says to stay calm, cool and collected,” Elliott said. “I knew my time was coming and I made the best of my opportunity.”

Dowling wasn’t on the field for the play, but he was clearly on Elliott’s mind. That’s a sign of Dowling’s massive leadership impact on Mount Carmel.

“Anytime you have [Dowling] at quarterback I like my chances no matter what happens,” Caravan coach Jordan Lynch said.

Dowling was 15-for-27 passing for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Mount Carmel (9-0, 3-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) trailed 24-14 at halftime and seemed to be coming unraveled before the break. An assistant threw an iPad after a penalty. Then an unsportsmanlike foul set Loyola up for a touchdown.

“We have dealt with a lot of adversity as a team and that helps us overcome stuff,” Dowling said. “There were a lot of penalties and stuff but we bounced back.”

The Caravan lost star running back Darrion Dupree to an ankle injury in the second quarter. He had seven carries for 81 yards.

Alonzo Manning II and Denny Furlong kept the running game alive for Mount Carmel. Furlong had six carries for 95 yards and Manning, a Marist transfer, provided an 18-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

“Manning’s name was called and he stepped up,” Dowling said. “I said earlier that we had to get the Marist out of him. He did right there, you could tell. He was a Carmel player.”

Furlong also had four receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown. Danyil Taylor caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and Jimmy Deacy caught four passes for 24 yards.

Loyola (8-1, 2-1) had a chance to win the game on its final drive but stalled at the Mount Carmel 27. That’s within field goal range for Michael Baker, the Ramblers’ talented kicker, so the five-point lead was just enough.

The Caravan’s defensive line disrupted Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney throughout the game. The Colgate recruit was 13-for-31 passing for 170 yards and one touchdown.

“We kept the [defensive line] fresh up front by rotating a lot of guys in,” Lynch said. “We were still cramping and struggling but we got the pressure and the tipped passes when we needed it.”

Mount Carmel has struggled at Loyola over the past decade and things looked bleak for the Caravan at halftime. The turnaround happened quickly in the second half and didn’t appear likely.

“If you have the killer mentality no one is going to be able to stop you,” Arrington said. “We fought as a fist. That’s the brotherhood.”

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