The impression many have of Mount Carmel football is that the program is swimming in Division I college talent year after year.
While coach Frank Lenti certainly has developed his fair share of D-I players, more often than not the Caravan compete without the benefit of big-time prospects.
Lenti, in fact, often points out that misconception to critics.
Case in point: Not a single senior on last season’s Class 8A state champion Caravan is playing for a Division I program.
This season, however, is a different story.
Mount Carmel already has four players committed to D-I programs: defensive linemen Enoch Smith (Michigan State) and Steven Richardson (Minnesota), running back Matt Domer (Illinois) and defensive back Deontae Brown (Western Michigan). A few others could land D-I scholarships before all is said and done.
The abundance of elite talent returning from a state championship team is a major reason the Caravan garnered the No. 1 nod in the SouthtownStar Preseason Football Top 10.
The distinction, however, means little to Lenti, the state’s all-time winningest coach (326-59).
“All that does is put a target on the kids’ backs,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’ve done nothing to be deserving of a No. 1 team. Guys committing to Big Ten schools doesn’t make you a great team. Those guys [Smith, Richardson, Domer] by themselves aren’t going to beat anybody.”
True. But having such talent does put the Caravan well ahead of the curve.
Marko Boricich takes over at quarterback. Boricich, a 6-3 left-hander, is a skilled passer, more so than recent Caravan quarterbacks. He’s not nearly as much of a threat to run, though.
“Marko is very different than our recent quarterbacks,” Lenti said. “He can be a pure passer, but he’s not the runner like a [Jordan] Lynch or a [Chris] Sujka.” Boricich likely won’t have to be with a dynamic back in Domer (6-foot, 190 pounds) getting most of the carries. The Illinois recruit also is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The O-line should be a strength, with Nate Oquendo (6-2, 290), Steve Dumezich (6-4, 285), Kyle Thomas (5-10, 255) and Oscar Reyes (6-foot, 264) flexing their muscles.
Defensively, Caravan fans should take great joy in watching Smith (6-3, 265) and Richardson (5-11, 265) disrupt opposing backfields. Additional help will arrive in the form of linebackers Troy Weissenhofer (5-11, 190), Nick Johnson (6-0, 195) and Sam Connolly (6-1, 205), lineman DeAndre Greer (5-11, 250) and Brown (6-1, 195) at defensive back.
Lenti made it clear that special teams will be strong, but not at the level of last season.
Still, there’s a tremendous amount of talent up and down the Caravan roster. Lenti is quick to point out that talent doesn’t always translate to victories.
“It’s all about earned and deserved,” Lenti said. “They have to start practicing every day like they have something to prove. There’s a lot of complacency right now with these guys. A lot of people telling them how good they are. It doesn’t mean anything if you’re not working hard and not listening to the coaches. We’ll see how these guys respond.”