Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
By Mike Clark
Vontrell Williams has heard the whispers about a Mount Carmel program that hasn't won a state title since 2002 and hasn't played in a state championship game since 2006.
He and his Caravan teammates answered the doubters on Saturday afternoon by beating Homewood-Flossmoor 28-21 in a Class 8A semifinal at Gately Stadium.
Mount Carmel (11-2) advanced to its 14th title game in 25 seasons under coach Frank Lenti and will play Maine South (11-2) in the 8A final next Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
"We're proving Mount Carmel hasn't lost a step," said Williams, a junior defensive lineman who forced an H-F fumble in the closing seconds to help seal the win. "Like coach Frank Lenti always says, 'It's not our job to drop the tradition, it's our job to enhance the tradition."
The Caravan did that by limiting the damage done by H-F running back Malik Norman, who had rushed for 1,987 yards and 31 touchdowns before Saturday. He finished with 47 yards and one TD on 23 carries.
"Malik is a great back," said Mount Carmel's Michael Banks, a youth football teammate of Norman. "We've done a pretty good job on the run all year. If we wanted to win, we were going to have to contain Malik. Thank God we did it."
Banks ran for a game-high 112 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a one-yard plunge with 5:06 left.
"I heard coach Dave Lenti, Mount Carmel's defensive coordinator say on the sidelines, 'This drive is the game' and it really was," Banks said. "If we didn't score on that drive, who knows what would have happened?"
H-F's next possession ended with Derrick Bryant's sack of H-F quarterback Tim Williams on fourth down with 2:32 left. The Vikings (10-3) got the ball back on a fumble recovery with 1:42 remaining, but Williams forced a Williams fumble two plays later and Bryant recovered. The Caravan then ran out the clock.
"The defense played great today when it had to," Frank Lenti said, "The offense played just well enough to win when it had to."
Chris Sujka (17 carries, 51 yards) ran 13 yards for Mount Carmel's first touchdown with 7:10 left in the first quarter. But H-F's Arnold Duncan ran the kickoff back 95 yards for a 7-7 tie.
Banks' 49-yard touchdown dash down the right sideline put the Caravan back ahead 14-7 with 5:06 left in the first. Sujka's one-yard sneak pushed Mount Carmel's lead to 21-7 midway through the second quarter.
H-F tied it with two third-quarter touchdowns. Norman had a nine-yard scoring run out of the Wildcat formation and Williams (14 of 20, 181 yards) hit Sean Jones with a 29-yard TD pass.
"We knew they were going to try to stop No. 5 Norman," H-F coach Craig Buzea said. "We had other options. Tim hasn't thrown for 2,000 yards for nothing. ... Basically, we came up one play short."