Playoff return within Carmel’s reach

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MUNDELEIN — Carmel football coach Andy Bitto and his players can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After missing the postseason the past two years, the Corsairs need to win one of their final two games to become playoff eligible. Before finishing 3-6 in 2012 and 2-7 in 2013, they’d made the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons.

The recent bitter memories could change when Carmel (4-3, 3-2 East Suburban Catholic) plays host to division foe Marian Central (4-3, 2-3) on Friday. The winner probably will have enough playoff points to qualify due to a rugged schedule.

“Winning is a learned thing,” Bitto said. “Making the playoffs would be a huge boost for our program. Having a chance to do something our team set as a goal from Day 1 just goes to show how hard our seniors and the rest of our players have worked to put themselves in this position.”

Hurricanes starting quarterback Billy Bahl will be out Friday due to a Week 7 ejection that stemmed from a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Bahl is committed to Division I Miami (Ohio) and has been a huge part of Marian Central’s offense.

“We need to make sure we don’t let anything go to our heads,” Carmel senior offensive lineman Patrick Lyman said. “We have to keep our composure, because Marian Central is a really good football team, and they have a strong defense, too. But as a group, we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us.

“Personally, I’ve never been a part of anything like this. Everyone on this team loves each other. We all get along, and win or lose, we’re on the same page. I’m so grateful to be involved with Carmel football this season. I’m not knocking anyone, but the dynamic inside our locker room, at team workouts … it’s completely different this time. We feel like we’re close to being a well-oiled machine with a just a few adjustments here or there.”

According to Bitto, defensive lineman Liam Griffin, tight end Noah Turner and offensive lineman Sean Foster have been huge difference-makers. Turner has scholarship offers from Illinois and Indiana. A 6-foot-8 junior, Foster has offers from 13 schools: Indiana, Illinois, Toledo, California, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Missouri State, Nebraska, Buffalo, Kentucky and Nevada.

“I’ve watched Carmel football my whole life and every year they made the playoffs, so having the opportunity [to do the same] is just a dream coming true,” Turner said in a direct message on Twitter.

The Corsairs’ offense has scored at least 20 points in each of its seven games. Carmel has averaged 28.4 points per game in its five division contests while allowing an average of 19.8 points.

“The two losing seasons are behind us and the future is looking bright,” Turner said. “The biggest key to our offense is [it has] the ability to give anybody the ball, and they will give you positive yards. There isn’t a weak spot on the offense.”

Carmel quarterback Mike Huiras and sophomore running back Rondel Jameson have had breakout seasons in the Corsairs’ option-based offense.

“We feel like if we score four touchdowns a game, we’ll win every time,” Bitto said. “Hopefully, we get solid production on both sides of the ball this Friday and accomplish one of our main goals of becoming playoff eligible.”

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