CHICAGO | All night, Times No. 1 Mount Carmel's defense had been stifling Providence Catholic's attack.
The Celtics were going nowhere -- unless they were going backwards.
They trailed the Caravan 14-0, and time was not in their favor. Suddenly, quarterback Justin Hunniford was connecting on passes. It was third-and-three on the Carmel 7. Dominic Lagone ran off left end for two yards. Fourth-and-one.
On the sideline, Caravan defensive coordinator David Lenti called for a blitz.
The Celtics were running. Lagone took the handoff and moved to the right.
Sam Connolly, a 6-foot-2 senior, was there to greet him.
The collision dropped Lagone at the 7 for a loss of two yards, a shutout preserved and a seventh victory in eight starts for Mount Carmel.
For Connolly, it was a play that had to be made. There was nobody else to make it.
"You know it's him or me," Connolly said. "It's gut-check time. You've just got to run in and stuff 'em for your brothers out there."
"Sam is one of the best leaders ever," quarterback Marko Boricich said of Connolly. "Stepping up like that, overcoming adversity, is unbelievable."
It was the big defensive play that was missing from the Caravan inventory at Loyola Academy a fortnight ago. Also missing then, at least in terms of consistency, was the Mount Carmel running game. Even with Matt Domer sidelined for a second straight game with an injury – and the Caravan took care of St. Laurence 55-0 without him – Mount Carmel was ready and able to run against Providence.
The total was 60 rushes for 247 yards, with touchdowns scored by Jimmy Mickens (32 carries, 131 yards) and quarterback Marko Boricich (nine carries, 18 yards). Jaquan Buntyn added 80 yards on 17 rushes.
All that rushing needed superior blocking. Kyle Thomas, Steve Dumezich, Jack White and Deandre Green provided much of it, notably on Boricich's scoring drive, a 50-yard march across 14 plays and 7:30 -- and on the game's final drive, which consumed the last 7:42 and featured four third-down conversions.
"We just tried to dominate at the point of attack," Thomas said.
The Caravan, with only a crossover against Leo on the Mount Carmel campus remaining, finished Catholic League Blue play at 3-1. Providence (4-4, 0-3), with Brother Rice left on the schedule, is in danger of missing the playoffs.