CLASS 7A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No. 1 Lake Zurich Bears (12-1) vs. No. 2 Mt. Carmel Caravan (12-1)
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Where: Huskie Stadium, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb
TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago Plus
Road to the championship: In the first round, Lake Zurich def. Elk Grove, 35-6 and Mt. Carmel def. Benet, 49-6. In the second round, Lake Zurich def. Rockton Hononegah, 20-0 and Mt. Carmel def. St. Rita, 20-15. In the quarterfinals, Lake Zurich def. Wheaton North, 16-6 and Mt. Carmel def. Downers Grove North, 7-0. In the semifinals, Lake Zurich def. Glenbard West, 16-7 and Mt. Carmel def. Edwardsville, 34-7.
Playoff history: Lake Zurich is making its 12th straight playoff appearance. The Bears won the 2007 Class 7A state title and finished as the Class 7A runner-up in 2006 and 2010. Last year, Lake Zurich lost in the semifinals to Glenbard West, 19-13…Mt. Carmel is making its 17th consecutive playoff appearance, and could win its 11th state title since 1980. The Caravan won the Class 8A state championship last year by defeating Glenbard North (28-14), and put together a couple of mini dynasties prior to that. Mt. Carmel won four straight state titles from 1988 to 1991 and three straight from 1998 to 2000.
Head coaches: Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt is 106-46 in 14 years as a head coach. He spent two years at Chicago Weber in the late 1970s, left coaching and returned as the head coach at Marian Catholic in 1991, where he stayed for 10 years. He's been the head coach at Lake Zurich the last two seasons and is playing for the first state title of his career…Mt. Carmel coach Frank Lenti is 338-60 in 30 seasons at Mt. Carmel and has won 10 state championships. His teams have also finished as the state runner-up five times.
Outlook: Lake Zurich has gotten pretty good at chewing up clock in recent weeks and that's a skill that could come in real handy in DeKalb. Once again, the Bears' best defense for another strong offensive attack might just be their own offense. "Our success relies on our offense being able to keep control of the football," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "Because of how good Mt. Carmel's defense is, and it's got a couple of Division I recruits on the line, that's going to be difficult for us, but it's going to be crucial."…It's not that Proffitt doesn't trust his own defense. Quite the opposite. The Bears, led by Syracuse-bound linebacker Colton Moskal, are allowing only 7.5 points per game, and just 4.8 points per game in the playoffs. It's just that Proffitt doesn't want his defense to get overworked or over-extended. A relentless ground game like Mt. Carmel's can wear down even the best of defenses. "Mt. Carmel has such a powerful offense. They run the ball so well and have some really good, Division I-caliber players," Proffitt said. "We really just need to keep them off the field. We were able to do that last week (against Glenbard West). I thought our offense controlled the ball for the entire second half. Each week is a different story and you can run something textbook one week and the next week that could all change. But we need to try hard again to make sure we keep our offense on the field."…Either way, if it's the Lake Zurich offense or the Mt. Carmel offense, there will be a lot of running plays called. Of their 4,363 total yards this season, the Bears rolled up 3,021 of them on the ground. Ben Klett (625 yards), Dylan Schassler (558 yards) and Sean Lynch (503 yards) have been the top rushers for Lake Zurich this season, although Schassler is questionable for the state title game. He got dinged up in the semifinal win over Glenbard West and was showing concussion-like symptoms. His status will likely be a game-time decision, but the good news is that he's the Bears' only injury concern. It's a refreshing change of pace for Lake Zurich in a season in which injuries have been a huge storyline…Meanwhile, Mt. Carmel is even more run-oriented than Lake Zurich. The Caravan has run for 3,792 of its 4,563 yards. Illinois-bound running back Matt Domer has 1,299 yards and 14 touchdowns on 154 attempts. He's averaging 8.4 yards per carry. His partner in crime in the backfield, running back Jimmy Mickens, is sitting on 1,118 yards on 182 attempts. He's rushed for 13 touchdowns. "Mt. Carmel is a great running team. They run the veer with split backs and it hits very quickly because the backs line up right behind where they're going. The line is big, so they get that downhill push and it's a very physical offense. We've seen similar offenses. But not one that is so loaded with as much talent. It's not just their backs, their quarterback (Marko Boricich) does a great job of running things and knows when to pull the ball and pitch it to someone else. The other thing is that you can't get too hung up in defending the run because (Boricich) can throw it when he needs to."…Lake Zurich quarterback Noah Allgood will also pull the trigger on some passes. In fact, he completed 11-of-16 passes for 134 yards last week against Glenbard West. One of his passes went for a touchdown, 6 yards to Klett. "I thought Noah did a great job last week in all facets," Proffitt said of Allgood, who has completed 85-of-135 passes for 1,342 yards this season. "He did a great job of running our offense."…If the kicking game comes into play, Lake Zurich should be in good shape. Kicker A.J. Trittschuh has made 8-of-10 field goals this season, including a 19-yarder last week.
Celebrate good times: Regardless of the outcome, Lake Zurich will be welcomed home Sunday with a parade and pep rally. The parade begins at 12 noon at Lions Park and runs down Church Street to the high school. The rally will begin at 1 p.m. in the Lake Zurich High School field house.
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw