WILMETTE | Four Mount Carmel turnovers in a quarter.
That was the difference in Loyola Academy’s 24-17 playoff berth- clinching victory in the showdown of top-ranked, unbeaten Catholic League powers on Sunday.
That puts the top-ranked Caravan (5-1, 2-1) in precisely the same position they were last year after a loss to Loyola (6-0, 3-0). Mount Carmel won the remainder of its games, capped by the IHSA’s Class 8A championship, the winning streak extended to 13 games this year before Sunday’s setback.
“We told them last year, it was a character test, ‘We have to see what you’re made of,’” coach Frank Lenti said. “Winning is in the details. We have to take care of the details.”
This one will sting more for the way it came about than the outcome itself.
The final 12 minutes, 19.8 seconds, played under a bright, noon sun following Saturday’s interruption of lightning and flood, might have gone the other way had the Caravan been able to hang on to the ball.
Mount Carmel’s defense held the Ramblers to 10 yards and forced a turnover themselves after giving up 300 yards on Saturday.
Fumbles by quarterback Marko Boricich and running back Matt Domer (17 carries, 190 yards) and a pair of interceptions thrown by Boricich halted four Caravan drives in their tracks. On their best shot, they had driven to the Ramblers' 27-yard line when Domer fumbled with 1:23 to play.
Mark Dowdle and Andrew Cerney, the latter with 36.5 seconds to go, picked off Boricich, who was throwing to ace receiver Christian Searles in each case. Searles was tightly marked by defenders all game, and Sunday was no exception.
“We just dropped back in our normal coverages, which we weren’t doing most of the game,” Cerney said. “The quarterback was looking right at him, and I knew I had to be right on top of him so he couldn’t get behind me, and I took it.”
Play resumed at 12:03 p.m. Sunday with Mike Kurzydlowski’s extra-point kick, which was made on Saturday but not counted with lightning flashing as he kicked. He made it again, proving even a 20 hour, 26 minute delay couldn’t ice him.
That was the extent of Sunday’s scoring. Mount Carmel moved the ball better, piling up 101 yards in more than 12 minutes to Loyola’s 10 yards — the Ramblers went three-and-out three times after quarterback Jack Penn was intercepted on the first play of Loyola’s first drive — but the four turnovers hurt.
“You’re not going to beat anybody doing that,” Lenti said. “It’s all about the ball.”
Lenti refused to use the delay and the logistics as an excuse.
“That was tough, a ridiculous tough drive in the weather, then coming back,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “I did not envy that situation.”
“No excuses,” Lenti said. “Can’t complain about that.”