MIKE NIETO: It was a memorable prep football season

2012-11-29T19:00:00Z 2012-11-30T02:17:58Z MIKE NIETO: It was a memorable prep football seasonMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
November 29, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

Both Crete-Monee and Mount Carmel high schools capped off great seasons with state championships.

It put the icing on the cake that was a great 2012 season. It returned glory to the south suburbs and The Times area teams.

Crete-Monee is the new kid on the block and let's hope the Warriors plan on staying in that neighborhood for some time. It won the school's first team title in any sport.

Jerry Verde has built the Warriors into not only a south suburban power, but a state power, which culminated with Crete beating Cary-Grove 33-26 in Champaign. The team said that was its goal and the players never lost focus and never got big heads. Not a lot of people can keep that focus and not let the side shows get to them.

While the Warriors won their first state title, several hours later on the same field, Mount Carmel won its 11th state title and 10th under the legendary Frank Lenti, who is the state's winningest prep football coach. It also was the program's first state title since 2002.

Mount Carmel is also the first Catholic school to win the Class 8A title, so maybe Lenti should have 10.65 state titles to account for the 1.65 multiplier the Illinois High School Association gives to non-boundaried schools. It is kind of ironic that had Loyola Academy beat Glenbard North in the Class 8A semifinals, it would have played Mount Carmel for the title and two Catholic schools that would be in Class 6A would have played for the Class 8A title.

There was also another first in this was the first father-son combination to win a state title under Lenti. Junior kick returner Rich O'Brien and his dad Rich are the inaugural members of this group. The elder Rich was a defensive end on the Caravan's 1988 Class 6A state championship team. That was Lenti's first title.

Lenti joked after the win over Glenbard North that "We must lead the state in titles won in different classes. We even played in Calss 7A."

He is right. Mount Carmel has won titles in classes 5A, 6A, and 8A and has finished second in 7A in 2005.

There were other great moments, like Bloom Township making the playoffs for the first time since 1991 and the first time since Bloom and Bloom Trail high schools merged their athletic programs in the mid-1990s.

It was good to see T.F. South have a great year after struggling with a 4-5 mark in 2011. The Rebels beat Lemont for the first time in a thrilling 21-20 overtime win and tied for the South Suburban Blue title with Lemont and Oak Forest.

The 2012 season is now closed, but it was a pretty good ride.

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

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