Mount Carmel’s identity crisis didn’t last very long.
“Last week was not Mount Carmel football,” linebacker Sam Connolly said. “We knew that.”
This week was, though.
Coming off a narrow escape against Brother Rice in its Catholic League Blue opener, the Caravan looked more like the area’s top-ranked team Friday night in a dominant 24-3 road win over No. 10 St. Rita.
Illinois-bound back Matt Domer motored for 166 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and quarterback Marko Boricich added 117 yards on 11 rushes as Mount Carmel piled up 364 yards on the ground and earned the 700th win in program history. Only East St. Louis (886) has more in Illinois.
The defense, meanwhile, stalled quarterback Tommy Mister and the Mustangs’ offense. Mister finished with 48 yards on 21 carries, his rushing stats diminished by two big losses on bad snaps. The senior was 10-of-25 passing for 154 yards with two interceptions, by Connolly and Christian Searles.
As usual, much of the heavy lifting was done by Mount Carmel’s big, athletic defensive linemen, who kept Mister on the run most of the night.
“We definitely keyed [on] him,” Domer said of Mister. “Our defense, they’re monsters, so they came in and played big.”
Connolly appreciated the help from Enoch Smith Jr. and Steve Richardson, among others.
“They do a great job of keeping the tackles off me … they keep me clean, make the game easy,” Connolly said.
Domer made it look easy all night long on the other side of the ball. His nine-yard scoring run with 2:52 left in the first quarter put the Caravan ahead for good. He added a 50-yard scoring run at 11:16 of the second and his 60-yard touchdown dash with 7:36 left in the game sealed the win.
“Adrenaline was pumping,” he said of the last scoring run. “I [saw] a dude was on my tail so I knew I had to kick it into an extra gear.”
Boricich did the same on a 66-yard sprint on Mount Carmel’s first play of the third quarter. That set up the Caravan’s other score, a 25-yard field goal by Zach Mirabelli.
St. Rita (4-1, 0-1) managed just a 33-yard field goal by John Kelly with 8:21 left in the game.
“Unfortunately, we came out and didn’t perform as well as I think we could have,” Mustangs coach Todd Kuska said. “I was happy with the way the defense played. … To keep them at 24, I thought we had a chance [to win]. We just didn’t hold up our end of the bargain offense-wise.”
But there was some good news in the return of senior lineman Matt Byrne, who had been sidelined by injury.
“We’re going to move on,” Kuska said. “It’s a long season.”
So will Mount Carmel (5-0, 2-0), which still isn’t in peak form. Coach Frank Lenti pointed to turnovers — St. Rita had interceptions by Marty Bechina and Ryan Price, along with a fumble recovery by Dan Gleaves — as an area of concern.
“That we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Lenti said. “We can’t just rely on our defense. It’s got to be a team game.”
On Friday night, it was.