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Mount Carmel comes back to top Loyola, finishes regular season unbeaten

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

With his team trailing Loyola by 10 points at halftime in a battle between two unbeaten teams, senior quarterback Blainey Dowling had a message for his Mount Carmel teammates.

Dowling called upon them to remember who they are.

“I gathered the team up and I said, ‘Hey, the first half didn’t go our way. We’re a second-half team,’” Dowling said. “It’s about dealing with adversity and how you overcome adversity.

“Those 4 a.m. workouts in two inches of snow. That’s adversity. We have half the team getting up at 3 a.m. to take the train to school. That’s dealing with adversity.

“That’s what our team is all about. We dealt with that bad first half and came out and played ball.”

Dowling and the Caravan turned things around in the second half, scoring three third-quarter touchdowns and holding on for a 42-37 win over the Ramblers in Wilmette.

The victory clinched the outright CCL/ESCC Blue championship and a perfect regular season for Mount Carmel (9-0, 4-0).

“It’s awesome,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “It’s our goal. You come to Mount Carmel to win championships.”

Mount Carmel earned the top seed in Class 7A and is set to open the playoffs by hosting Buffalo Grove (4-5) — the only under-.500 team to make the postseason in any class — at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Against Loyola (8-1, 3-1), the Caravan turned the tide by scoring two touchdowns in a 21-second span early in the third quarter.

On Mount Carmel’s opening possession of the second half, Dowling ran for a 13-yard TD.

“We knew what we had to do in the second half,” Lynch said. “We came out fast and hard.”

On the next play from scrimmage, the Mount Carmel defensive line got heavy pressure on Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney. Senior lineman Bobby Medina hit Stearney and knocked the ball out of his hand.

Linebacker Parker Startz jumped on the fumble to give the Caravan the ball at the Loyola 15-yard line.

“It was the game plan we had all week to get pressure on the quarterback,” Startz said. “We kept going at it. We came out kind of slow, but we made adjustments and we came out hard in the second half.”

Two plays after the fumble, Damarion Arrington ran for a 7-yard touchdown to give Mount Carmel the lead for good.

Dowling was grateful to the defense for giving the Caravan the ball in the red zone.

“They made a huge play and we capitalized,” Dowling said. “We scored after that. It came down to the defense stepping up for us right there.”

Mount Carmel’s special teams came up with a big play, as well.

With the Caravan holding on to a 35-30 lead and facing a fourth-and-nine at the Loyola 39-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Lynch called for a fake punt.

Sophomore punter Jack Elliott, who is also the team’s backup quarterback, hit Arrington for a 19-yard pass for a first down.

That set up a 12-yard TD pass from Dowling to Darrion Gilliam.

Dowling completed 15 of 24 passes for 157 yards and also threw TDs of 22 yards to Denny Furlong and 13 yards to Danyil Taylor.

Furlong had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown and ran for 64 yards on six carries.

Alonzo Manning ran for an 18-yard TD, stepping up after star running back Darion Dupree got injured, keeping him out the entire second half.

Down 42-30 with just over five minutes left, Loyola scored on a 23-yard pass from Stearney to Spencer Leadbetter.

The Ramblers forced a punt and got the ball back at their own 24-yard line with 2:24 to go, then drove to the Mount Carmel 38.

But the Caravan held there, forcing an incompletion on fourth down to seal the win.

“Our defense got the pressure and the tipped passes when it came down to it,” Lynch said.

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