CHICAGO | He may be a wide receiver as well as a cornerback these days, but at his core Christian Searles remains a defensive player first.
That much was evident after Searles starred in No. 1 Mount Carmel's 40-0 rout of St. Patrick at Soldier Field, when he was asked which of his three touchdowns was his favorite.
The 5-foot-9 senior opted not for the jump ball he won against two taller defenders for a 14-yard score in the fourth quarter, or the 10-yard play-action route he nabbed to open the second-half scoring. Rather, he went with his first grab.
"The pick-6, for sure," he said. "I've never had a pick-6 before."
In the first quarter, after the defending Class 8A state champs sputtered out of the gates with two fumbles and a punt ending their first three series, Searles intercepted a Zach Fuller pass and weaved 38 yards to the end zone. The rout was on.
"I knew the quarterback was rolling, so he might not be as accurate," Searles said. "I never get picks on my feet. After I caught it, I was running for my life."
Searles had four interceptions last year, when he played only defense. This year, he's a relative rarity for the Caravan as a two-way player.
"Pound for pound, he might be the best football player on our team," Caravan coach Frank Lenti said. "It's not how big you are, it's how big you play. … That's why he's a two-way player for us."
Eventually, Mount Carmel's offense settled in behind new starting quarterback Marko Boricich, who completed 6-of-10 passes for 81 yards and three touchdowns. Jimmy Mickens (11 carries, 62 yards) and Matt Domer (10, 61) led a balanced ground game that rolled up 228 yards.
Mount Carmael's other touchdowns came on a 15-yard Domer run and Brendan Griffin's 16-yard catch, both in the second quarter, and backup quarterback Anthony Thompson's three-yard keeper in the fourth.
But, it was the Caravan defense that really starred. The Shamrocks, a playoff team in 2012, managed only 103 yards of total offense, and just 39 of those on the ground.
"It was real fun," Caravan linebacker Nick Johnson, who had two sacks, said. ""We wanted to come out here, make a statement and show how good we really are."
And how good are they?
"I don't know," he said. "We don't have a state championship yet."
Lenti, who has coached in 15 state title games over his first 29 seasons at Mount Carmel, intimated his 30th squad might be assuming another state trip is a given.
"Some of the guys haven't stepped up," he said. "When those guys understand it's about now, it's not about last year, maybe they'll get more snaps."