As if Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti needed anything else in his illustrious résumé, the 2014 Caravan may be his crowning jewel, as they defeated Lincoln-Way East in the Class 7A quarterfinals 20-7 on Saturday afternoon at Gately Stadium.
The Griffins scored first on a 23-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Mike Weller to Alex Kraft with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The touchdown capped a 17-play, 78-yard drive. The Caravan (9-4) responded with a six-play, 68-yard drive and scored on a 9-yard touchdown reception by Avery Saffold from quarterback Anthony Thompson to tie the score 7-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Caravan capitalized on several defensive miscues. The first coming on a fourth down, deep in their own territory on the 7-yard line, when the Griffins (11-2) were called for a roughing the kicker penalty. This kept the possession alive and resulted in a 46-yard touchdown run eight plays later by Thompson to give Mount Carmel a 14-7 lead. The Caravan’s next golden opportunity came on a fourth-and-14 on the Lincoln-Way East 31 when the Griffins were called for pass interference that led to Thompson’s second touchdown — a 1-yard run with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter as Mount Carmel built a 20-7 lead.
The Caravan’s defense was outstanding as they sacked Weller five times — two by linebacker Andrew Guerra who also had eight tackles. “Everybody just did their jobs,” Guerra said. “Our coaches had us well prepared. We believe in each other and we had the extra motivation of winning it for ‘Coach E’ (former Caravan assistant Curt Ehrenstrom, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in May).”
Defensive tackle Kevin Thurmon had seven tackles and one sack.
Lincoln-WayEast coach Rob Zvonar was visibly upset after the game. “They are a great team — have a great coach, great program and it is very hard to beat Frank Lenti at Gately Stadium,” Zvonar said. “I would like to focus more on what we accomplished this season: winning our conference with a fine group of young men and the commitment of several players who could have sat this game out because of injuries, but wanted to be there for the team.”
Lenti said the same breaks that are falling his team’s way now did not happen earlier in the season. “I have been on both sides,” Lenti said. “Earlier in the season I had some tough calls go against us. I’m just extremely proud of the way the team has hung in their, fought through adversity and are playing Mount Carmel football.”
Thompson finished the day 8-for-12 for 119 yards and one touchdown. He also had seven carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns. He was supported by Anthony Riles, who had 20 carries for 92 yards.