By Dick Goss
If there is a better word than frustrating to describe what transpired Friday night at Matt Senffner Field in New Lenox, Providence coach Mark Coglianese had not found it.
The No. 18 Celtics were revved up for their regular-season and Catholic Blue finale against Mount Carmel, but six turnovers later, the No. 5 Caravan left town with a 17-0 victory.
Providence (7-2, 2-2) had second-and-goal on the Mount Carmel 1-yard line on their second possession, but quarterback Dominic Lagone had the ball leave his hands on a sneak and it fly into the end zone, where the Caravans Vincent Speller and Justin Sanchez smothered it.
Late in the first half, the Celtics were first-and-goal at the 6-yard line after a Cody Kirby-to-Chad Weaver connection on a double pass covered 47 yards. But on first down, Lagone tried to make a play when being tackled, pitching to Brandon Price (19 carries, 105 yards). It failed to connect and Speller corralled it and returned it 88 yards down the sideline for the first score with 10 seconds left in the half.
The key was to get to the ball and scoop it up and then I could score, Speller said There was nobody behind me.
It wasnt a good decision on Dominics part, Coglianese said of the errant pitch. But were not going to come down too hard on him. Hes done things like that all year and made big plays, and thats what he was trying to do.
Providence committed six turnovers in all, not to mention a costly holding penalty in the third quarter, and Mount Carmel (8-1, 3-1) eventually wore down a game Celtics defense. Ivan Strmic kicked a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and Draco Smith (22 carries, 98 yards) scored a late TD on a 3-yard run.
Providence beat us last year, Speller said. There was a lot of anger inside us.
We executed our defense. We expected to play like this. Thats what coach (Frank) Lenti wanted. It was very important that we win this one going into the playoffs.
We did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things in the first half, Coglianese said. Our defense was outstanding. But the second half was a different story. They wore us down.
And lets face it, you arent going to beat a good team like Mount Carmel when you turn the ball over. We could have been up 17-0. But we have a young team, especially on offense, and we will take something positive out of this.