No. 2 Loyola snaps top-ranked Mount Carmel’s 22-game winning streak

The Ramblers stuffed a potential game-tying two-point conversion in the final minutes.

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Loyola’s Ryan Fitzgerald (15) reacts during the game against Mount Carmel.

Loyola’s Ryan Fitzgerald (15) reacts during the game against Mount Carmel.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Loyola’s Ryan Fitzgerald and Mount Carmel’s Jack Elliott began the season in high-pressure situations.

Both juniors took over at quarterback for football superpowers. Neither had started a varsity game before. But that didn’t change the expectations. At both schools, it’s state title or bust, with no room for regular-season losses on the way.

They met on Saturday in Wilmette in the state’s biggest game of the regular season. There was a packed stadium and a live TV broadcast. Both teams were undefeated, and something had to give.

Loyola stopped Elliott and Mount Carmel on a game-tying two-point conversion attempt with 3:18 to play. Fitzgerald picked up a crucial first down two minutes later to seal the No. 2 Ramblers’ 23-21 victory, which snapped the top-ranked Caravan’s 22-game winning streak.

Two years ago in a freshman football game, Mount Carmel stopped Fitzgerald on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt.

“I guess it was just like this,” Fitzgerald recalled. “After the game, I went up to [Elliott] and talked to him, and we’ve built up a friendship since then.”

Both kids must have realized where they were headed.

And that there is no one else in the area who could understand what they go through daily.

“I mean, on the field, like, we hate each other,” Fitzgerald said. “But off the field, I have a lot of respect for [Elliott] and all of those guys. He’s a really tough kid, and I can’t wait to see where he goes with college and how he ends the season.”

Fitzgerald was 7-for-21 for 232 yards. He connected with Michael Baker for a 65-yard touchdown late in the first quarter that opened the scoring. Loyola (9-0, 3-0 CCL/ESCC Blue) never trailed.

“Baker is really physical,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s not just a kicker. He ran like the wind, and he scored.”

Baker might be the best kicker in the state. He nailed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half to put Loyola ahead 17-7.

“[On the kick], I had the wind and the adrenaline,” Baker said. “On the touchdown, I wish I could have outrun them more, but I kind of just took a good angle and then I dove.”

Fitzgerald had 13 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns. The second score, a nine-yard run with 6:55 left in the third quarter, put Loyola ahead 23-7.

Mount Carmel charged back. Elliott connected with Maurice Densmore on a 28-yard touchdown pass and with Darrion Gilliam on a 10-yard touchdown pass. But the Caravan failed on the two-point attempt.

“I’m not a believer that you can always learn from a loss. Forget that,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “All the credit goes to Loyola. I won’t take anything away from that. They beat us.”

Elliott was 20-for-30 for 250 yards and three TDs. He had 15 carries for 83 yards.

Loyola’s Connor Sullivan (99) and Joe Kelly (50) tackle Mount Carmel’s Jack Elliott (9).

Loyola’s Connor Sullivan (99) and Joe Kelly (50) tackle Mount Carmel’s Jack Elliott (9).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Wisconsin-bound running back Darrion Dupree had 15 carries for 83 yards for Mount Carmel (8-1, 2-1).

The Caravan went for it on three fourth downs in the first half, and Loyola stopped them on all three. Two were inside the red zone.

“We had to stand our ground,” Loyola linebacker Colin Scheid said. “They got close and our pride got hurt, so we had to defend our house. That’s a really aggressive team, and they were trying to shove it down our throats.”

The Ramblers and Caravan are considered the two best teams in the state, regardless of class. Loyola is the favorite to repeat as the Class 8A state champion, and Mount Carmel is favored to repeat in 7A.

“[The Mount Carmel] coaches are really smart, and their players are tough,” Fitzgerald said. “I know the work they must put in. They weren’t No. 1 in the state for nothing.”

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