CHICAGO | Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the city's youth Thursday at a Mount Carmel High School pep rally celebrating the football team's state title.
“Never bet against the kids of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said at the Carmelite high school celebrating the Caravan’s 28-14 victory over northwest suburban Glenbard North High School on Saturday for the Class 8A state football championship.
The mayor also said the success of city athletic programs whether public or private schools extends to Simeon Career Academy High School in boy’s basketball, Whitney Young High School’s champion girl’s basketball program, Mather High School in soccer, and Jones College Prep High School in track and field.
“They are champs on and off the court,” Emanuel said. “I want the people who criticize Chicago to see what I see in my eyes, they are champions.”
Emanuel’s appearance at the high school was greeted enthusiastically. He was cheered when he entered the school’s gymnasium, and several students tried shaking his hands as he walked past them.
Students also presented Emanuel with a T-shirt marking the Mount Carmel championship, calling it a birthday present as they sang “Happy Birthday” to him in celebration of Emanuel turning 53.
The mayor was one of three government officials who attended the Thursday afternoon event. Alderman John Pope, of the 10th Ward, and 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea are both alumni of the Woodlawn neighborhood school that attracts students from across the South Side, the surrounding suburbs and Northwest Indiana.
Quarterback and team captain Donnie Butkus commutes to school from his home in Dyer. A grandnephew of Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus, he said his teammates are particularly thankful for the support the football team receives from faculty and other students.
“If we didn’t get the support we get from you, we would not have” won the championship, he said.
Mount Carmel Principal Jon Stimler said he thinks the Caravan’s championship this year is particularly significant because of the discrepancy in enrollments between Mount Carmel and other high schools that play at the Class 8A level.
Most of those schools have in excess of 4,000 students and are the largest in Illinois, compared to the 710 students at Mount Carmel.
“We’re the first private school to win a state football championship (in Class 8A),” Stimler said.
The school has 10 prior state championships in football; the most recent in 2002.
“We met this challenge head-on,” Stimler said.