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updated: 11/23/2012 7:42 PM

Scouting the Class 8A football championship game

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  • Glenbard North's Justin Jackson catches a touchdown pass during Saturday's class 8A football playoff semifinal against Loyola Academy.

      Glenbard North's Justin Jackson catches a touchdown pass during Saturday's class 8A football playoff semifinal against Loyola Academy.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer


Class 8A football championship

Mt. Carmel (12-1) vs. Glenbard North (12-1)

Game time: 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, Champaign

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Road to the championship: Mt. Carmel, the No. 3 seed in the southern regional Class 8A bracket, beat No. 14 Brother Rice 30-9, No. 6 Simeon 41-6, No. 15 Lyons Twp. 45-10, and No. 1 Neuqua Valley 26-21. Glenbard North, the fourth seed in the northern regional 8A bracket, beat No. 13 Fremd 31-24, No. 5 Stevenson 23-14, No. 1 Maine South 29-23, and No. 2 Loyola 27-24.

Coaches: Mt. Carmel coach Frank Lenti has the most wins of any football coach in Illinois history. In 29 years with the Caravan he boasts a record of 325-59, including eight state titles and four second-place finishes. Since claiming the program's ninth state title in 2002, the Caravan has three runner-up finishes. Since taking the helm of the Panthers in 2005, Ryan Wilkens has coached the program to eight straight playoff appearances. Holding a 66-27 record, Wilkens' 2007 team finished second in 8A. Glenbard North also finished second in Class 6A in 1991 and 2000.

Starting offenses:

Mt. Carmel Glenbard North

Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.

Don Butkus 6-0 182 Sr. QB Brian Murphy 5-10 170 Sr.

Draco Smith 5-9 185 Sr. RB Justin Jackson 6-0 175 Jr.

Matt Domer 5-11 180 Jr. RB/FB Shawn Lenahan 5-11 220 Sr.

Jason Gasser 6-1 193 Sr. WR Ryan Storto 5-10 165 Sr.

Dominic Villa 5-7 151 Sr. WR Kendall Holbert 6-1 185 Jr.

Buster Sheridan 6-4 185 Sr. TE Bryan Leckner 6-5 200 Jr.

Nate Oquendo 6-1 283 Jr. LT Chris Edwards 6-1 285 Jr.

Brian Parker 5-11 230 Sr. LG D'Angelo Hodges 6-3 285 Sr.

Nick Dreixler 6-2 241 Sr. C Marcus Perez 5-10 225 Sr.

Kyle Thomas 6-0 252 Jr. RG Mitch Siver 5-10 280 Sr.

Juan Beltran 6-1 254 Sr. RT Eric Graham 6-2 255 Jr.

Ivan Strmic 6-1 195 Sr. K Hector Ortiz 5-8 155 Jr.

Starting Defenses:

Mt. Carmel Glenbard North

Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.

Enoch Smith 6-3 261 Jr. DE Andrew Mulshine 6-3 220 Sr.

David Denne 6-1 212 Sr. DE Connor Dombrowski 6-1 195 Jr.

Steven Richardson 5-11 285 Jr. DT Jerrad Miller 6-0 305 Sr.

Connor Griffin 5-9 175 Sr. LB/DT Anthony Zatto 5-8 215 Sr.

Jake Keller 5-9 167 Sr. LB Thomas Hood 6-1 200 Sr.

Ronan Flaherty 5-11 190 Sr. LB Dom Fornino 5-10 185 Sr..

D.J. Romero 6-1 201 Sr. LB Alex Smith 5-10 170 Sr.

Justin Sanchez 5-11 180 Sr. DB Sam Kriese 5-9 170 Jr.

Christian Searles 5-8 157 Jr. DB Justin Jackson 6-0 175 Jr.

Vincent Speller 6-1 190 Sr. DB Brian Murphy 5-10 170 Sr.

Deontae Brown 6-1 195 Jr. DB Ryan Storto 5-10 165 Sr.

Joe Pavlik 5-11 163 Sr. P Justin Jackson 6-0 175 Jr.

When Mt. Carmel has the ball: For Mt. Carmel's offense, success boils down to the health of Butkus' ankle. The senior quarterback, who has thrown for 1,071 yards and rushed for 508, hurt his ankle late in the semifinal win. On crutches after the game, Butkus -- super quick on the Caravan's veer option -- was not practicing as of midweek. If he can't go, junior Marko Boricich gets the nod behind center. Beyond the pitch option, often to Domer who leads the team with 1,290 yards and 20 touchdowns, Glenbard North must be wary of the belly dive that hammered Neuqua Valley last week. Smith, who's rushed for 799 of the team's 3,100 ground yards, gained most of his 75 yards on the dive. After all that the Panthers also need to keep tabs on Gasser in the passing game after he snagged 3 touchdowns last week. As the season and the playoffs have rolled along, Glenbard North's held nothing back defensively. Hodges, Jackson, Murphy and Storto are all seeing significant playing time on both sides of the ball, and this game will be no different. The Panthers received a huge boost when Rodriguez, the DuPage Valley Conference defensive player of the year, returned to the lineup last week after missing time with a knee injury.

When Glenbard North has the ball: Since the start of the season there's been no secret about Glenbard North's offense. In four playoff games Jackson's averaging 40 carries and 207 rushing yards, giving him 2,539 yards and 35 touchdowns on the season. Jackson's got speed to burn wherever he gets the ball, although he's been particularly effective running right over Hodges. If Jackson gets to the edge in space, watch out. Murphy's numbers aren't eye-popping, 1,307 passing yards and 511 rushing yards, but he's been critical in giving defenses something else to think about. Murphy's big-play target is Storto, who has 26 catches for 532 yards, but Murphy's been especially strong at spreading it out to Holbert, Leckner and Jackson. Ball control is the name of the game for Glenbard North, which loves Jackson's game-breaking potential but also enjoys moving the chains and keeping the ball out of the hands of opponents. Shutting down a top-notch back is nothing new to Mt. Carmel, which held 2,000-yard Neuqua Valley rusher Joey Rhattigan to 70 yards. The Caravan's defensive strength starts up front with Richardson. If Jackson gets by the first level, it'll be up to linebackers Griffin and Romero to stop him.

Intangibles: When Glenbard North beat Mt. Carmel in the 2007 semifinals at Gately Stadium, the Panthers showed they aren't intimidated by one of the state's premier football programs. Still, the numbers speak for themselves. The Caravan is going for its 10th state title, Glenbard North still seeks its first. One of the key intangibles will be Mt. Carmel's reaction to Butkus' injury. He's so effective on the option. Will the offensive game plan be affected if he can't play or is limited? And it's been a grueling playoffs for Jackson playing both sides of the ball. Can he withstand the rigors of one more game?

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