Loyola uses stout ‘D’ to down top-ranked Mount Carmel

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Loyola’s offense didn’t do much on Sunday afternoon, and it didn’t have to.

Staked to a one-score lead just before heavy weather forced play to be suspended on Saturday, the Ramblers’ defense took care of the rest when the Catholic League Blue showdown between the area’s top two teams resumed in Wilmette.

Loyola forced four Mount Carmel turnovers in the fourth quarter, paving the way for a 24-17 victory that vaulted the Ramblers past the previously top-ranked Caravan into the No. 1 spot in the Super 25.

Charlie Pontarelli and Tom Dreher recovered fumbles, while Mark Dowdle and Andrew Cerney had interceptions for Loyola (6-0, 3-0 Catholic Blue).

“Right now it feels like a state championship,” Dreher said. “But we know we’ve got to play De La Salle next week, which is another great offense.”

But the Meteors, who have a back headed for the Southeastern Conference (Mikale Wilbon, a Vanderbilt recruit), will be facing a Ramblers team that just keeps doing what it does best.

“Defense is the backbone of this school,” Cerney said. “And we proved it here.”

Loyola forced five turnovers overall in the game, which was suspended Saturday with 19.8 seconds left in the third quarter and the Ramblers up 23-17. The only point scored on Sunday was Mike Kurzydlowski’s PAT, which was put on hold after Jack Penn’s touchdown pass to Joe Joyce gave Loyola the lead for good.

On Sunday, Mount Carmel’s defense was good, too. Loyola ran 12 plays, which yielded 19 yards, no first downs and one turnover: sophomore Avery Saffold’s interception.

But Loyola was better. Mount Carmel’s five possessions ended in four turnovers and a punt. The Caravan’s best chance to score came late, when a 31-yard run by Matt Domer (18 carries, 187 yards, TD) gave Mount Carmel a first down at the Loyola 32. But Dreher’s fumble recovery three plays later at the 29 ended that drive with 1:23 left and Cerney’s interception with 36.8 seconds remaining iced it.

“This is a very fitting end to a weird weekend,” said Loyola coach John Holecek, whose team also had the distraction of dealing with homecoming on Saturday.

“They outplayed us,” Caravan coach Frank Lenti said. “We were way too inconsistent … we weren’t making some good decisions and that’s what happens. How are you going to beat good teams turning the ball over four times [in one quarter]?”

Mount Carmel (5-1, 2-1) is in a familiar position. Last year’s Class 8A champs lost only to Loyola en route to a 13-1 finish.

“We’ve got a lot of season [left], a lot of football,” Domer said. “It’s going to humble us. We’ve got to come out next week and turn [it] back up.”

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