WILMETTE | For the longest time on Saturday afternoon, top-ranked Mount Carmel and Loyola Academy were going back and forth like the top- ranked teams they are.
Then a higher power intervened at 3:37 p.m. Moments after Joe Joyce hauled in an 8-yard pass from Jack Penn to earn Loyola a 23-17 lead. Mike Kurzdlowski was in the middle of his kick when an official blew his whistle, not for a penalty, but because he sighted lightning to the southwest of Hoerster Field. The kick was good, but didn't count because play had been halted.
And there the drama has been halted, Loyola six points ahead and with the PAT to try again with 19.8 seconds left in the third quarter. After more than an hour, the teams took the field to warm up, hoping to beat a 6:25 p.m. sunset to the finish, because Loyola has no lights, but the FieldTurf was uneven in places because of air pockets underneath, and partly flooded.
Instead, play will resume, weather permitting, at noon today.
The postponement gives the Caravan, which had piled up 268 yards but allowed 300, a chance to retool.
“We’re way too inconsistent,” Caravan coach Frank Lenti said. “Offensively, we weren’t doing what we were coached to do. Too much waiting around to see what’s going to happen, rather than making it happen. Reacting rather than acting.
“That’s not who we are.”
Until the storm, the 5,000 fans that had crammed the stadium and filled parking lots on both sides of the Edens Expressway had been treated to a splendid spectacle. The showdown of the Ramblers and Caravan, No. 1 in the AP's Class 8A and 7A polls, respectively, was living up to its billing, with big plays and crushing tackles abounding.
Loyola quarterback Jack Penn authored the first dazzler, a 56-yard run down the right sideline after a fake to Julius Holley that froze a handful of Mount Carmel defenders. But the Caravan tied the game before the first quarter ended on Matt Domer's 96-yard touchdown run on the first snap after Holley fumbled the ball away.
Penn was even better passing, his 18-of-30 afternoon worth 176 yards included 11 receptions by Fran O’Malley.
A second Loyola turnover – Christian Searles picked off Penn – set Mount Carmel up in Rambler territory, and Jimmy Mickens took advantage, scoring midway through the second quarter from the 42 on a journey down the right sideline. Kurzdlowski's 36-yard field goal with 27.7 seconds left in the half narrowed the gap to 14-10 at halftime.
Holley's 10-yard burst off right tackle early in the third pushed Loyola ahead, 17-14. Mirabelli tied the game with a 23-yard field goal with 3:54 left in the third.
Then the Ramblers capitalized on a Mickens fumble, Penn finding Joe Dixon for 13 yards on a fourth-and-10 pass, then hitting Joe Joyce from the 8 for the go-ahead score. And as Kurzdlowski connected, the whistle blew to suspend play.
Lenti, who has seen it all, even saw something like this before.
“My first game as a head coach,” he remembered. “We were at Buffalo Grove, and we never even got started. We went back and played on Monday.”