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For first time in school history, Mount Carmel has a true homefield advantage in football

All of Mount Carmel’s home football games will be played on campus at Barda-Dowling Stadium at Carey Field.

Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch says the alumni, coaches and players are excited about having an on campus stadium.
Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch says one of the perks of having a true home field advantage is that the Caravan gets to pick the time of their games.
Evan F. Moore/ Sun-Times

For Mount Carmel senior wide receiver Tony Livermore, Friday night can’t come soon enough.

“Standing here right now, I can’t wait to get out here under the lights,” Livermore said. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was a freshman; dreaming we would find a stadium. Now, it’s happened. I’m getting jitters just standing out here waiting for Friday night.”

“Friday Night Lights” hits Mount Carmel’s campus as the Caravan will play all of their home football games at 64th and Dante for the first time in the school’s 119-year history.

Mount Carmel, the No. 14 team in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25 rankings, will play its first home game at the new Barda-Dowling Stadium at Carey Field. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday against Calumet New Tech High School from Gary, Indiana.

Barda-Dowling Stadium—which was funded by donors and alumni—will seat 2,200 people, according to school officials. The stadium is equipped with home and away bleachers, a scoreboard and a student section, along with a press box.

The stadium is named after former Caravan football players Jim Barda and Kevin Dowling, the only players in program history to have their numbers retired. Both died as members of the team.

For decades, the Caravan played their home varsity football games at Gately Stadium. Before that, they played at Eckersall Stadium.

Last season, the Caravan played four home games with temporary bleachers.

The upgrade not only gives the Caravan the ability to host postseason games on campus, they can pick the time of their games — something they weren’t allowed to do at Gately.

“When you think of Gately, you think of Mount Carmel. Now, times have changed. ... It’s a huge advantage for us — financially,” Caravan coach Jordan Lynch said. “The players are excited, and the coaches are excited.”

With plans to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center, and Tiger Woods’ plan to merge the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, Mount Carmel seems to be in the right place at the right time.

“We’re kind of in the middle of a perfect storm with the school here with everything going on,” Lynch said. “We have a great incoming freshman class. We’re looking to build off that, also.”

Senior linebacker Lance Swain has something special planned for the Caravan’s home opener, but he’s keeping that information to himself.

“We got a new ‘warm up.’ That’s what I’m excited about to get the guys going for the first game,” he said. “For the first game, we’ll have it down pat. ... We’re in the backfield of our home.”

While the Caravan faithful is excited for this season’s home games, their neighbors south of 65th Street have mixed feelings about the school’s expanding presence in Woodlawn.

Several people in the area south of 65th Street told the Sun-Times they have concerns about the new stadium, citing congestion, littering and excessive noise in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

“I don’t mind it, though. ... I enjoy seeing the people come out. If I can’t find a space, I’ll just park in the back of my building. I love football. I’m going to buy a ticket to a game,” said Barbara Wright, a self-proclaimed “Caravan fan” who lives across the street from Barda-Dowling Stadium.

Mount Carmel’s Tony Livermore, left, and Lance Swain, right, are two of the five team captains for the 2019 season.
Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times

Swain, who was voted along with Livermore as two of the five team captains for this season, appreciates the pomp and circumstance of the first official on-campus home game. But he prefers to focus on the task at hand — beating the opposition and leaving a legacy for the underclassmen.

“I want to get closer to the guys; get [them] right for next year,” he said. “We’re seniors, so they look up to us. Winning the first game. Winning the Catholic League and, hopefully, winning state. The guys before laid it on us. And now, we got to lay it on them.”