MIKE NIETO: Defense is what wins championships

2013-11-16T20:00:00Z 2013-11-17T02:30:08Z MIKE NIETO: Defense is what wins championshipsMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
November 16, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

DOWNERS GROVE | It seemed as if the game was played in black-and-white and in the mud instead of artificial turf.

Saturday's Class 7A quarterfinal playoff game between Mount Carmel and Downers Grove North had that feeling.

The Caravan prevailed, 7-0, in a steady drizzle which picked along with the wind in the fourth quarter.

"Yeah, it would have been more fun in the mud," Caravan defensive tackle Enoch Smith said. "It kind of felt like we were playing in one of those (throwback) games."

Smith, a Michigan State recruit, fellow defensive linemen Steve Richardson, a Minnesota recruit, and Deandre Greer helped slam the door on the Trojans as they stopped the run and put constant pressure on quarterback David Edwards.

On a day when Mount Carmel's offense was less sharp as expected — and credit to Downers Grove North's defense too — the Caravan made stop after stop. They held the Trojans to 22 yards of total offense. They did not allow a first down until there was 10:51 left in the game.

"We told them they had to step up because on a day like today, seven points can win a game and it did," Caravan defensive coordinator David Lenti said. "Enoch, Steve and Deandre Greer, didn't give up anything up front. We got good penetration all day long.

"They certainly make my job a lot easier."

Lenti said he would have liked a little more of a cushion.

"It would have been better if it was 10-0," he said.

This was a defense that recorded its fifth shutout of the season and this is the eighth time it has held an opponent to single-digit scoring. The defense was airtight in a second-round win over St. Rita on Nov. 8 at Gately Stadium, but had two lapses that resulted in scores. Saturday, the defense was as sharp as the offense was sluggish.

"We knew we had to come up big, rainy day, not too good of conditions," Richardson said. "We got help from our linebackers and defensive backs. They did a nice job of covering receivers and when we did miss a tackle, they were right there to make the play."

Mount Carmel (11-1) will play at Edwardsville in one semifinal game. The Caravan's score was set up by one of three interceptions. Marquise Peggs picked off  a pass and it culminated with Marko Boricich hitting Sam Connolly for an 11-yard score with 1:20 left in the first half.

"I read the quarterback's eyes and saw he was focusing on the receiver my way," Peggs said. "I just cut in front of him and made the play."

Teammate Christian Searles had two picks. The second one came with 44 seconds left and the Trojans trying to drive for a potential game-tying score.

"Both of my picks were because our D-line put a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Searles said. "They hurried him all game. I was just there and made the play."

Head coach Frank Lenti said the offense has to get into sync.

"How many times did we stop ourselves?" Lenti asked. "Our first two drives we turn it over on downs. We just had to many miscues on offense."

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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