Shorthanded Maine South falls to Mount Carmel
Anyone who thought Maine South would roll over and hand Chicago Mount Carmel an easy victory because the Hawks' starting QB went down with an injury in Week 1 doesn't know much about this proud program.
It's one that has produced 6 state titles since 1995, 93 victories this decade, and one that continues to produce high- quality athletes on both sides of the ball every season.
So although few outside Maine South likely gave coach David Inserra's squad much of a chance Friday night, this game was tied 7-7 late in the second quarter thanks to a menacing defense and a solid performance by senior quarterback Dan Lazic.
Things really started looking good when a 41-yard punt by John Sassan pinned the Caravan on its own 1-yard line with 3:11 remaining in the first half.
But the game turned quickly when Mount Carmel quarterback Justin Lynch threw a 34-yard pass to gain some breathing room. Four plays later, Lynch somehow eluded what looked to be a sure sack by Maine South linebacker Liam Barry and heaved a rainbow to a wide-open Jaali Parker for a 46-yard touchdown.
Mount Carmel (2-0) then returned a fumble 33 yards early in the third quarter and went on to post a 21-7 victory in Park Ridge.
"We were obviously up against it with some injuries and having to change course (two) weeks into the season," said Inserra, whose team fell to 0-2 and lost starting running back Johnny Palumbo to a hip injury in the third quarter. "I'm really proud. I thought the defense played much better, much more physical and understood what we needed to do."
Lazic, who started in place of the injured Luke Leongas, is a 5-foot-9, 178-pound speedster who had never played quarterback before. The senior ended up going 8-for-18 for 104 yards with 2 interceptions. His most impressive pass came on a 51-yard hookup with Ryan Kilburg early in the second quarter.
"We played a lot better than last week," said Lazic, who also had 20 rushes for 62 yards. "We have to finish more plays. I have to pick up this offense since I'm probably going to be the quarterback for the rest of the season. We have to get things going -- score some touchdowns and get to the playoffs."
Maine South's lone touchdown came on a 13-yard interception return by Sean Hayes with 7:07 left in the second quarter. Hayes, who had 2 interceptions, leapt in front of a quick pass by Lynch and managed to keep his balance while stumbling into the end zone.
"It was awesome," Inserra said. "His brother did that two years ago. That sparked us. Great home crowd, great support. We were kind of one play away."
Indeed. After Mount Carmel took a 21-7 lead, Lazic led the Hawks on a 16-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a missed 26-yard field goal. The Hawks had first-and-goal at the 5, bWut failed to punch it in.
Lynch, the brother of Mount Carmel coach and former NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, was 6-for-16 for 113 yards. Ninety-two of those yards came on that critical 5-play, 99-yard drive at the end of the first half.
"We're pretty special on the outside," Lynch said when asked what made him throw on first-and-10 from his own 1-yard line. "We have some playmakers. Our quarterback's got a strong arm. We have to take shots. We had been running the ball and not really getting anything up the middle, so someone had to make a play."