On a night Carmel Catholic's football program honored its seniors before the game and its 2003 state championship team at halftime, St. Viator closed the evening by spoiling the Friday party.
And, oh, did the Lions have reason to celebrate.
Michael Fitzpatrick boomed a 33-yard field goal as time expired, and the Lions overcame a turnover-filled night to pull out a 17-14 win in an East Suburban Catholic Conference thriller in Mundelein.
St. Viator improved to 3-1 and 1-1 in the ESCC, while delivering a huge blow to the playoff hopes of Carmel (1-3, 1-1), which faces Nazareth, Marist and Joliet Catholic the next three weeks.
"We always have heated battles, and it's unbelievable to beat a program like that two years in a row," said coach Brandon New, whose Lions defeated Carmel in a nailbiter last season, too (28-25).
Playing as if they were inspired by the state champs that thrilled Carmel football fans 10 years ago, the host Corsairs came up with 4 turnovers, 1 fewer than the '03 defense averaged. St. Viator coughed up the ball three times inside the 5-yard line, including once by the goal line. Carmel's Matt Kelly also blocked a 32-yard field goal try by Fitzpatrick in the second quarter.
"We knew what we could do," said St. Viator senior quarterback Bobby Calmeyn, who completed 28 of 38 passes for 241 yards. "All game we were driving down the field. It was just a matter of executing and finishing inside the red zone."
St. Viator's final red-zone turnover came when middle linebacker Fermin Santana intercepted Calmeyn at the Carmel 5 midway through the fourth quarter, after the ball deflected off Nickai Poyser of the Corsairs. Carmel took over at the 3 and moved the ball to the St. Viator 39. But Lions defensive end Zack Niro dropped Corsairs sophomore running back Darrius Crump (15 carries, 144 yards) for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-3 from the Carmel 39, giving the ball back to the Lions with 3:12 left on the clock.
"That was the game right there," said Carmel coach Andy Bitto, whose team had gone ahead 14-7 on QB Nick Grandolfo's 20-yard TD run on fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter. "But the play that really hurt us was the third-and-3 (for no gain). If we get 2 yards, it's fourth-and-1 and it's a little different. If we get a first down, then WE have the shot to get the field goal and win the game at the end."
St. Viator stayed in its no-huddle, hurry-up spread and after 12 plays trotted out Fitzpatrick with 4.2 seconds left.
After Carmel called back-to-back timeouts, Fitzpatrick calmly and confidently launched his game-winning field goal. The snap, by Jackson Laterza, and the hold, by Matthew Yoder, were perfect, allowing the Lions to play spoiler on senior night.
"(Carmel) iced me a couple of timeouts and I just had to clear my head," Fitzpatrick said. "I wasn't thinking about anything. Everybody was trying to talk to me and get me pumped.
"I was just ignoring everybody," the junior kicker added, laughing.
St. Viator receivers Matthew Darling and Ben Dickey each caught 10 passes from Calmeyn. Carmel's Joe Berg also had an interception, while Mark Amick (at the Carmel 4) and Lucas Porter (at the Carmel 2) recovered fumbles for the home team.
"(St. Viator) did a good job of moving the ball down the field, but I thought we did a good job of bending not breaking," Bitto said. "Four turnovers and three inside the 5-yard line could have been demoralizing for them. It gave us long fields, unfortunately, with our young offense."
St. Viator's own sophomore running back, Joey McIntyre, rushed 14 times for 111 yards, with many of his yards coming on inside traps. McIntyre's 32-yard touchdown run with 8:12 left before halftime answered Crump's 11-yard TD burst in the first quarter.
"That really hurt us," Bitto said of McIntyre's success rushing the ball.
"I think we really learned a lot about ourselves last week at JCA (Joliet Catholic, failing to protect an early lead and losing 35-20)," New said. "I didn't know if we knew how to win the game. We kind of got a little nervous because we had never been in that situation before. So we preached on that a lot (in practice this week): We need to finish, we need to finish. Today, although we made a lot of mistakes, we finished."
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