Mount Carmel quarterback Don Butkus, who sprained his left ankle in Saturday's 26-21 Class 8A semifinal win over Neuqua Valley, is not using crutches, according to Caravan coach Frank Lenti.
Butkus was hurt during a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. He left the field on crutches and Lenti said on Monday the senior quarterback was wearing an ankle boot, and his status is day-to-day.
Thomas expected to return: The depth senior-laden Crete-Monee has was on display Saturday. The Warriors beat Lemont while missing running back Darius Thomas, out with a shoulder injury.
Fellow senior DeShaun Smith took up the slack, running for 33 yards on nine carries, just enough to keep Lemont’s defense from focusing entirely on the Warriors’ vaunted passing attack. That included the 4- yard touchdown run with 3:13 to play that pulled Crete-Monee within a point. Quarterback Marcus Terrell’s conversion run put the Warriors ahead.
Thomas ran for 399 yards and scored four touchdowns, averaging 5.87 yards per carry in the first 12 weeks. He’s also scored once on 22 receptions.
“He’s been such a stalwart for us,” coach Jerry Verde said. “He’s back this week. We had to hold him out. We didn’t want to risk it because he could have re-injured it very easily. He’ll be ready to go.”
Lenoir makes up for miscue: There were nearly as many turning points in Crete-Monee’s 28-27 victory over Lemont in Saturday’s Class 6A semifinal as there are facets in a diamond. One that appeared to leave the Warriors with a lump of coal was Lance Lenoir’s muffed punt reception with 8:58 left in the fourth quarter.
That gave the Indians the ball on the Crete-Monee 21-yard line. It was soon first-and-goal on the Warriors' 10, but Lemont’s sturdy rushing attack couldn’t punch it in, and had to settle for Joe Hehir’s 30-yard field goal, and a 27-20 lead with 5:23 to play.
The 71-yard, seven-play drive that brought the Warriors the lead – and eventual victory – included a pair of receptions by Laquon Treadwell for 14 and 37 yards, and an 11-yard reception by none other than Lenoir, the 11th of his game-high 12 catches for 114 yards. That put the ball on the Lemont 11. Three plays later, it was in the end zone.
“Lance Lenoir had a great, an excellent game,” Treadwell said. “He stepped up big.”
Eight of the first 11 passes Marcus Terrell threw were aimed at Lenoir. He caught five of them for 59 yards. But the heavy lifting came at the end, when the Warriors rallied from a 24-14 deficit.
“Hats off to Marcus, to Laquon, and to Lance for coming back and making big plays,” Verde said.
Four of a kind: Mount Carmel seniors Jason Gasser, Draco Smith, Don Butkus and Vincent Speller were sophomores on Mount Carmel's 2010 team which lost to Maine South in the Class 8A title game.
Speller said beating Neuqua Valley on Saturday for a return trip to Champaign is special.
"Sure is," he said. "I was up as a sophomore, but this was great to play in a state championship game."
Smith echoed his teammates words.
"I am really excited and being a three-year (regular) makes it special," Smith said. "Two times in three years is great .We want to win it all."
The Caravan face Glenbard North, which beat Mount Carmel in 2007 in a Class 8A semifinal. North beat Loyola Academy om Saturday, the only team to top Mount Carmel this season.
The Caravan is making their 16th state championship appearance overall and have won 10 state title. Coach Frank Lenti has won nine and is the winningest coach in Illinois prep football history.
What are you gonna do?: Lenti was asked what would happen if quarterback Butkus could not play in the state championship game. The senior was injured in the closing minutes of Saturday's 26-21 win over Neuqua Valley.
"Marko Boricicih is out backup," Lenti said. "After that, maybe Jordan Lynch. I saw Jordan tonight (Saturday) and told him to just shave real close."
He said it toungue-in-cheek.
Lynch quarterbacked Mount Carmel in 2007 and 2008 and was The Times 2008 Offensive Player of the Year and 2009 Male Athlete of the Year. He is nation's leading offensive player and is Northern Illinois' quarterback. NIU recently started a "Lynch for Heisman" campaign.
Smile in success: Lenti also reflected on his team going back to the state finals for the first time since 2010 and going for the program's first state title since 2002.
"I've been the head coach 29 years here and 16 of the last 27 we've gone to the state finals," Lenti said. "That is ridiculous (funny). That shows just how hard our kids have worked and the time they put in."