DEKALB | The challenge has been laid down for next year's Mount Carmel football team.
Can they three-peat?
"That would be great for these juniors," senior linebacker Sam Connolly said. "We knew we had to work hard in the offseason and we did. For guys like (junior linebacker) Troy Weissenhofer, he has two rings and he has a chance to get three."
The Caravan became the first team to win a state title in four classes when they beat Lake Zurich 30-0 Saturday at Huskie Stadium. Last year, they were the first private school to win a Class 8A title.
Mount Carmel won four straight state titles from 1988-1991 and three straight from 1998-2000.
"We tend to do things in clusters," Caravan coach Frank Lenti said. "We had some nice runs and our kids know each year what our expectations are."
The expectations are always high at 64th and Dante, and this year the defense was expected to be a factor.
What an understatement. The defense dominated, especially in the playoffs.
The defense allowed a total of 242 yards and seven points in the final three playoff games. In five postseason games, Mount Carmel (13-1) gave up a total of 28 points. It was 98 for the year. Yes, this team to use the cliche', threw nickels around like manhole covers or more like opposing ballcarriers down behind the line of scrimmage like they were a pair of dirty socks.
It had six shutouts and held opponents to single-digit points 10 times in 14 games.
Lenti would not say this is his best defense, but said it ranks up there as one of them. Mount Carmel football is associated with air-tight defense, discipline and a team concept.
"I don't like using the term, 'the best,' because you make one group happy and I get 1,000 phone calls from the other guys," Lenti said. "I will say this team, the defense set the tone today and all year. We knew we would have to be tough on defense."
Lenti said his linemen were dominant all year.
"It all starts up front with the defensive line," Lenti said. "Those guys, Steve (Richardson), Enoch (Smith) and Deandre Greer, they shut down things up front. Linebackers, Sam (Connolly), Bobby Brophy, Nick Johnson, Troy (Weissenhofer), they were tough too."
Turnovers were the key as Mount Carmel scored off of three turnovers, including its first score when it recovered a botched punt on the opening possession. Richardson put an exclamation point on the defense when he sacked Noah Allgood for a safety. This was after the Caravan fumbled on the Lake Zurich 1.
"We knew we were going to get the safety, it was just a matter of who," Richardson said. "We were in competition for it and I wanted it."
He said the defense wanted another shutout. The Caravan held the Bears to 71 yards of offense and four first downs.
"We remember against Downers (Grove) North and allowing just one first down," Richardson said. "We wanted to do that again today. We wanted to dominate and take control."
That it did.