CHAMPAIGN | The smallest man on Maine South and a sophomore quarterback did the biggest damage against Mount Carmel on Saturday night.
Paul Preston, a 5-foot-4 fireplug, ignited for 145 yards and two touchdowns as the Hawks' 28-7 win in the Class 8A state football title game ruined the Caravan's quest for the program's 11th state title.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Alviti was 16-of-21 passing for 224 yards, and threw one touchdown while running for another.
Preston said his line made it easy for him.
"They did a great job of opening some big holes and it was easy for me to run through," Preston said. "I wanted the ball. This was a big game and I knew with them blocking I could make the plays."
When quarterback Chris Sujka hit Mayan Cook for a 71-yard score with 1:08 left, Mount Carmel (11-3) avoided being shut out for the first time since Glenbard South beat it 33-0 on Nov. 1, 2003 in the first round of the playoffs.
With the title on the line, the Caravan could not come up with a big play. Sujka threw two interceptions, after throwing just three the whole season.
"Penalties, lack of communication hurt us," Sujka said. "(Maine South) did a good job of shutting us down, but we did some things to hurt ourselves."
The Caravan took the second half kickoff and drove down to the Hawks 2-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs. In that drive, the big play was a halfback option pass from Mike Banks to Mayan Cook for a 41-yard gain to the 6.
When the Hawks came back and drove 95 yards on 10 plays as Preston scored his second touchdown, Maine South took the 21-0 lead after Alviti ran the PAT in.
"That was the turning point right there," Mt. Carmel coach Frank Lenti said. "We drive the ball and come away with nothing, then they go the length of the field and score.
"If we score, it's 13-7, but instead it's 21-0. We just didn't execute and made some mistakes."
The defense, which had played well throughout the playoffs, had letdowns and let the Hawks come up with big plays.
"We practiced all week tackling low, but (Preston) got some big yards," defensive tackle Jon-Stefan Bodnar said. "We didn't swarm like we have done all year."
Maine South, which won its third-straight state title and fourth overall, scored twice in the second quarter as it drove 80 yards in eight plays with Preston scoring from 14 yards out with 9:20 left in the second quarter.
After Mt. Carmel went three-and=out, Alviti hit Imran Khan for a 57-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-0 with 8:06 left. Alviti added a nine-yard score in the fourth quarter to seal Mt. Carmel's fate.
Both teams had a chance to score on their first possessions. Main South took the opening drive and went to the Mt. Carmel 1-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs.
The Caravan drove to the Hawks' 24, but Nikko Rodriguez's 41-yard field goal attempt was wide right.