A sell-out crowd of 6,000 fans is expected at St. Rita on Friday. There will be cheerleaders, a band, student sections and all the familiar sights and sounds of high school football.
The schedule-makers (athletic directors) blessed the city with the perfect opening night matchup: The top-ranked Mustangs host archrival Mount Carmel. It’s the ideal return to full-throated high school football.
Kaleb Brown and his St. Rita teammates have been talked about thoroughly the past week, but what about the Caravan?
Mount Carmel begins the season ranked No. 11. That might be a bit of a stretch. The Caravan graduated 17 seniors, the heart of the team for the last several years.
By all accounts, the talent is on hand for Mount Carmel to remain one of the top teams in the area. But there might be some growing pains. Expect the Caravan to be a threat come playoff time, but the beginning of the season might be difficult.
“We are young, but they have a lot of energy,” senior tight end Joey Thompson said. “There are a lot of things to fix, but we will be ready on [Friday].”
Thompson and senior linebacker Elliott Lewis are the leaders of the new-look Caravan. Lewis has been looking forward to Friday for weeks.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Lewis said. “The energy and emotion that Mount Carmel fans, the parents and kids and whole community bring, I love it. When I’m on that field, I just feel like I don’t ever want to leave. That’s how Mount Carmel fans make me feel.”
Coach Jordan Lynch says the Caravan’s strength will be the offensive line, led by senior Ryan Boersma. Senior running back Enzo De Rosa will be expected to carry a major load as the team breaks in a new quarterback.
Lynch had a three-player quarterback competition in practice, but based on last week’s scrimmage, it appears that junior Blainey Dowling has won the job. Senior Brandon Rogers, the expected starter, is out with an injury. Rogers has committed to Oklahoma for baseball, and it’s unknown if he will play football at all this season.
There’s a lot of excitement around the younger classes at Mount Carmel. One of the players to watch is sophomore running back/defensive back Darrion Dupree.
“He’s doing a good job for us on both sides of the ball,” Lynch said. “He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and a very good young talent that just needs to get tons of reps.”
The senior class is thin, consisting of just 12 players. But it’s a group that has experienced great success and has bought into the school’s culture.
“It doesn’t matter who the head coach is at Mount Carmel,” Lynch said. “From day one when you come here, the culture is set. You know exactly what you are getting yourself into. It is a player-driven team. My time of leading and doing all that is done. It is up to the kids, it is up to the seniors. [Thompson, Lewis and De Rosa] are carrying on that culture and bringing the young guys with them.”
Mount Carmel’s culture faces a massive test Friday. The Mustangs will be looking to make an opening night statement.
“That’s why you come to St. Rita, to play in the big games,” quarterback Tommy Ulatowski said. “You come to play in the big games, and there is nothing bigger than St. Rita vs. Mount Carmel, so I’m excited.”