DEKALB | The statistics were staggering.
A total of 64 points scored against the top seeds on each side of the Class 7A bracket in the last two weeks.
Only 49 yards rushing and seven points allowed in the last three weeks.
An undefeated record Saturday from start to finish this season – the only blemish in a 13-1 record coming at Loyola Academy in a contest that lightning forced to finish on Sunday.
In the end, it was the feeling that was overwhelming to the players on top-ranked Mount Carmel after they finished their run to the 7A championship with a 30-0 shutout of Lake Zurich at Huskie Stadium. And the Bears were fortunate to have 0.
The feeling was coming for a while.
“Around the start of the playoffs,” linebacker Sam Connelly was saying. “I saw our emotion, how we were playing. It reminded me a lot of last year’s team.”
Mount Carmel took advantage of three Lake Zurich turnovers to score touchdowns, plus forced a safety. That’s 23 of the 30 points triggered, if not scored outright, by the defense.
Matt Domer scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 1-yard plunge two plays after Nick Johnson hit Lake Zurich punt returner Sean Lynch, forcing a fumble on the Bears 33 that Justin Peebles returned to the Lake Zurich 6. It was 7-0 3:04 into the game, and Domer’s 2-yard run four plays after Bob Brophy recovered Bears quarterback Noah Allgood’s fumble, it was 14-0. There was 1:16 left in the first quarter, but in reality, it was over.
“The turnovers set the tempo for the entire game,” Caravan coach Frank Lenti said. “It was just like last week (at Edwardsville).”
There, Mount Carmel pounced early, with 21 points in the first quarter of a 34-7 rout. This wasn’t identical, but close enough to procure a 12th state championship, and the 11th with Lenti at the helm. Both are state records.
“Our goal is to win the day and send the other team’s fans home early,” Lenti said.
That seemed to work. It was 21-0 at the half, Christian Searles hauling in a 21-yard pass from Marko Boricich midway through the second quarter. Steve Richardson’s sack of Allgood in the Lake Zurich end zone with 3:22 left in the third quarter made it 23-0, and the Bears fans began to make for the parking lots. The final blow was a 3-yard toss from Boricich to Brendan Griffin with 8:16 to play.
That, and the shutdown defense that authored six shutouts this season, including two in the last three weeks, took care of things before about 14,000 fans, a number that dwindled considerably on the west side, where Lake Zurich’s fans were stationed. The Caravan crowd never budged.
Domer finished with 176 yards in 35 carries, giving him 1,475 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns this season. Boricich’s two touchdowns gave him 15 for the season on 55 completions. And Richardson, ticketed for Minnesota, collected three more tackles for loss, giving him a season total of 32, worth 104 yards.
Lenti, mindful of the players he’s had in the past, wasn’t about to call this his best defense, only one that would be in the team picture. But the common thread that ties the Caravan teams together from past to present, he wasn’t bashful about mentioning.
“Toughness has to transcend the talent we have,” Lenti said after career victory No. 339, which extended his state record.
“Every time we get a shutout, it’s extra special,” Connolly said. “Especially to end it.”