Sam Connolly's impact is felt beyond opposing ball carriers.
His leadership at Mount Carmel carries to both sides of the ball said Caravan coach Frank Lenti.
"He is another (defensive coordinator) Coach Dave (Lenti) on the field," coach Lenti said. "That is how good of a football player and knowledgeable of a football player Sam is."
Connolly credits the coaches for making him a good player, working as both a linebacker and tight end.
"Coach Dave really has us prepared against the other team's offense," Connolly said. "That is one of the reasons we have had success. All of our coaches really do a great job of getting us ready for the game. we know when we go out there, we are prepared.
"Coach Joe Kubik, our strength coach, does a great job in the off season getting us conditioned."
The Caravan (10-1) travel to Downers Grove North (7-4) for a Class 7A quarterfinal game on Saturday. Connolly expects another tough game.
"We will have to play well defensively because as you know, defense wins championships," Connolly said. "We had a few lapses (in a 20-15 win over St. Rita), but we pride ourselves on defense. Mount Carmel always has."
He also considers it an honor to play linebacker in a program that has produced such greats as Tony Furjanic, Jerry Schumacher, Jeremy Nau and Steven Filer to name a few.
"You look at those names and you consider yourself fortunate to play that position," Connolly said. "We have had great players here at every position."
Connolly has a team-leading 47 tackles, including 11 for loss (for a minus -65 yards). He also has two interceptions.
On offense, he can use his blocking and receiving skills. he loves playing both ways.
"I get to work with the offensive line and Coach Frank a lot, so that is cool," Connolly said. "We work together as a team, so it doesn't matter if I block on a run for Matt (Domer) or Jimmy (Mickens) or Marko Boricich throws me a pass."
The buying into Lenti's "It's a 'we' thing and not a 'me' thing" is a big reason for the Caravan's success.
"We knew we lost some great leaders last year in Jason Gasser, Donny (Butkus), Draco (Smith) and as seniors, our job was to provide that leadership," Connolly said. "Our job was to work with the juniors, the younger guys and make sure they came together."