St. Charles North upsets Mt. Carmel, will go for 7A title
They lost their starting quarterback in Week 1.
They lost their starting running back in Week 7.
They suffered back-to-back, gut-wrenching late-season conference losses.
But they never lost hope -- and now they're headed to Champaign.
St. Charles North (10-3) put the ball into the hands of senior Tyler Nubin down the stretch and the versatile 2-way standout put the team on his muscular shoulders.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder scored all 4 of his team's touchdowns, including the game-winner in double overtime while helping lead the North Stars to a thrilling 27-21 Class 7A state semifinal victory over Mt. Carmel (11-2) Saturday afternoon in St. Charles.
With the win, the North Stars advance to their first state title contest next Saturday at 4 p.m. against Nazareth (12-1), which knocked off defending 7A champion Batavia, 47-28.
"It's quintessential -- our season in a microcosm of being the underdog, fighting your tail off, fighting through adversity," said jubilant North Stars coach Rob Pomazak, whose team's goal-line stand in the final 2 minutes of regulation included DJ Oshin's block of a 25-yard field goal attempt by Mt. Carmel's Julian Patino.
"Our backs were against the wall with no time left and we figured out a way and got it done."
"We pride ourselves on running the ball and finishing and it just didn't work there," said Caravan coach Jordan Lynch.
After Nubin broke free from Caravan all-state safety Matt Lenti and literally carried a pair of defenders on his back into the end zone for a 9-yard TD run in the first overtime to give the North Stars a 21-14 lead, Mt. Carmel answered with Kenenna Odeluga's 10-yard TD run on its first possession to tie it at 21-21.
The momentum shifted, however, early in the second extra session.
On 2nd-and-goal from the 7, North Stars senior defensive lineman Johnny Ambrogio forced a fumble that junior teammate Ben Furtney recovered to thwart Mt. Carmel's possession.
"I was going for the tackle and I think my helmet hit the ball and knocked it loose," said Ambrogio.
"I was starting to get pinned a little bit so I trolled out to stay outside and I heard, 'ball,'" said Furtney. "I looked over and it was right there."
From there, the North Stars turned to their "Mr. Everything."
Running out of the Wildcat formation for the 25th time in the game, Nubin took the 1st-down snap and rambled 10 yards across the goal line for the go-ahead score, setting off a wild celebratory scene in the south end zone.
"Coach (Pomazak) said, 'just don't go down, just don't go down,'" said Nubin, who carried the ball 24 times for 134 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns while adding a 34-yard, 1st-quarter TD reception from junior quarterback Kyler Brown.
"When we got the ball back (in the second overtime), he said, 'protect the field goal, hold onto the ball and make sure we win the game.'"
"That's his stamp for Player of the Year," said Pomazak. "He's just a man amongst boys. He has the heart of a champion and he will not be denied. We owe a lot of our success to what he's doing but also the guys behind him playing a supporting role."
Now, the North Stars are headed to Memorial Stadium.
"These guys are resilient," said Pomazak. "We went through some tough times this year and here we are. I can't even believe it -- I really can't believe it."