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Four Downs for Week 5: St. Ignatius shocks Mount Carmel

Diving into the Wolfpack’s upset of the Caravan.

Vinny Rugai and his St. Ignatius teammates make a tackle in the win against Mount Carmel.
Vinny Rugai and his St. Ignatius teammates make a tackle in the win against Mount Carmel.
Provided by Ella Tovey.

The score sent shock waves around the Chicago high school football community Friday: St. Ignatius 27, Mount Carmel 0.

Forget the usual Four Downs. This upset was big enough to draw all the focus from the weekend. The Wolfpack’s last victory against Mount Carmel came in 1928. The teams tied in 1960.

The history is a little misleading because St. Ignatius didn’t have a football team from 1964 until 2005. But that also adds to the Wolfpack’s accomplishment. They’ve been building a program from scratch.

‘‘It’s been two days, and I’m still trying to process it,’’ St. Ignatius junior Vinny Rugai said. ‘‘I’ve been going to Mount Carmel games since I was born, and I don’t remember seeing them get shut out or lose by more than 14 points. They just came out flat. We were confident heading in and knew we could take it to them and knew they might underestimate us.’’

Rugai plays linebacker and running back for the Wolfpack. He had 12 tackles on defense and 14 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown on offense against the Caravan.

Rugai has been going to Mount Carmel games for so long because his dad played quarterback for the Caravan.

St. Ignatius linebacker/running back Vinny Rugai on the sidelines during the win against Mount Carmel.
St. Ignatius linebacker/running back Vinny Rugai on the sidelines during the win against Mount Carmel.
Provided by Ella Tovey.

‘‘He was happy for me and was definitely rooting for St. Ignatius,’’ Rugai said. ‘‘But it meant a lot more to beat them because he played there and Mount Carmel football has been such a part of our lives.’’

The Wolfpack run the triple-option. Coach Matt Miller said the running game, behind a line of Damian Lassak, Will Mulchrone, Jake Rothgery, Emmett Rhoades and Drew Steigleder, had 335 rushing yards against the Caravan.

St. Ignatius has had about eight kids playing on both sides of the ball before this season. Rugai is now the only player starting on both sides, which is sign of growth for the program.

‘‘Rugai is all over the field and a really good leader, too,’’ Miller said. ‘‘Jack Molloy’s dad is also a Mount Carmel alum. [Molloy] had 10 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown and caught our only pass.’’

St. Ignatius opened the season with victories against Von Steuben, Bremen, St. Laurence and Marmion. That’s a nice start, but it gave no indication of what would happen against the Caravan.

‘‘The Marmion game was tough for us,’’ Rugai said. ‘‘We were down 16 going into the fourth quarter and won. So after that, we weren’t celebrating during the game against Mount Carmel. We knew anything could happen.’’

Mount Carmel was ranked No. 2 last week and has beaten St. Rita, Phillips, Notre Dame and Marist this season.

‘‘I didn’t know what to say to the team right after the game,’’ Miller said. ‘‘I was shell-shocked.’’

The St. Ignatius community reveled in the victory all weekend.

‘‘I got a message from Tony Harris, who started the program in 2003,’’ Miller said. ‘‘Then I heard from a lot of the players that went through the tough parts early on, the 1-8 seasons. When you think about how much it means to so many people, it really starts to build, and you see the gravity of the win. Mount Carmel has been dominant for so long. We have yet to win a playoff game.’’

That’s the next step for the Wolfpack. They have four winnable games to finish the season: De La Salle, St. Viator, DePaul Prep and Fenwick. St. Ignatius likely will enter the Class 6A playoffs with a lofty seed.

‘‘A win like this changes the mindset of everyone around you,’’ Miller said. ‘‘We keep making the playoffs and then taking some lumps. This was a really big one for us to take a step forward.’’