Monday, November 11, 2013

My weekend of football...

...was a combination of firsts, lasts, constants and one interesting contrast.

The "firsts" included an Egyptian fast food restaurant I drove past in Carol Stream, above. I'd never heard of that before. Egyptian fast food? Really? (It was closed too. Can't imagine why.)

Another "first" was my first-ever trip to Gately Stadium on the South Side for Mount Carmel's 20-15 victory over St. Rita on Friday night.

This is what the Rita side looked like when I got there. With plenty of time to kill, I struck up a conversation with the guy who parked next to me. He was a Rita grad from 1970 although he looked much, much older. (Maybe he thought the same thing about me.) He sounded marginally connected to the team so I asked him how it was that Tommy Mister happened to transfer to St. Rita for his senior year. He went into the whole story of how he wanted to play quarterback for Richards but realized he wouldn't and so went shopping for a new team. I knew all that, but why St. Rita?

"I don't know," he said. "But Marist, Brother Rice and Providence wanted him too. Marist really wanted him. They wanted him bad. But we got him!"

Indeed they did, but in the end it wasn't enough to defeat the big, bad Caravan, who notched their second victory of the year over the Mustangs. (In Pat Disabato's excellent piece in the Sun-Times he mentions that the two storied programs have met 92 times since 1924 with Mount Carmel prevailing in two-thirds of them.)

The Caravan was up, 14-0, at halftime on Friday and it seemed like a repeat of their 24-3 drubbing of the Mustangs in Week Five. But Rita came alive at the end of the third quarter and scored 15 unanswered points to take the lead. (I asked one of the guys next to me why some of his buddies had left at the half. He just shrugged his shoulders.)

So with 7:56 remaining in the game, Mount Carmel had the ball and according to Mike Helfgot's report in the Tribune, Matt Domer (my emphasis):

...was handed the ball on five consecutive plays and eight of 10.

The Illinois-bound Domer (30 carries, 259 yards) had 73 of the 87 yards on the winning drive and erased Rita's 15-14 lead on a 10-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 34 seconds to play.

"When it's on the line you have to be ready to ride Secretariat," Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti said. "And that's exactly what we did."

I want to come back to that quote in a minute.

But first I want to say something I was tempted to tweet at halftime on Friday night: No one in 7A is going to beat Mount Carmel. No one.

It's funny how Carmel is in 8A when it's weaker than 7A and in 7A when it's weaker than 8A. Still, make no mistake: these guys are a juggernaut.

On Saturday I drove past that Egyptian restaurant on my way out to Glenbard North for the game against Stevenson. I parked next to the guy above, whom I could only think must be a real treat to have around the house. "I'm the greatest, I tell ya! I'm unbeatable!" Sheesh.

It was another good contest, not unlike the one from the night before. The lead changed hands several times before the Patriots went up, 20-16, with 4:53 left in the game. And this is where that quote from Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti comes in:

When it's on the line you have to be ready to ride Secretariat.

Now, admittedly, Stevenson had contained Panther running back Justin Jackson in the second half after allowing him two beautiful touchdown runs in the first quarter. But Jackson was arguably the best running back in the state this year and in spitting distance of the single-season rushing record of 3,325 yards. So what did GBN coach Ryan Wilkens do? Ride his Secretariat? No, he chose to pass on an extremely windy day on the next three possessions. And what was the result? Two ended in interceptions and the other on downs. The Panthers' and Jackson's seasons were over. Strange contrast, I thought.

So the Caravan will play Downers Grove North on the road next week while Stevenson travels to Barrington. It was the last time I'll see Jackson or Mister play in high school although the Mustang quarterback reminded me that he may have three games left if St. Rita makes it to the Prep Bowl. (And then there's always Northwestern and Iowa State, respectively.)

But I'm already looking forward to next week. This afternoon I'll select my games, but I'm already eyeing Joliet Catholic at Montini, Lincoln-Way West at Sycamore, Lincoln-Way North at Richards and Maine South at Loyola. It all depends on when they're scheduled.

Oh, and the constants? At least one ski band and the obligatory guy in shorts, below:

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