CHICAGO -- “Go Butkus,” a Mount Carmel fan shouted from the Soldier Field stands on Friday.
It’s not a stretch to think those same words were shouted from that same location 40 years ago, directed at legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.
On Friday, it was intended for Butkus’ great nephew, Mount Carmel junior Don Butkus, who was making his varsity starting quarterback debut -- and just happened to be doing it at Soldier Field.
Displaying a confidence worthy of his famous relative, Butkus threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another score to help No. 7 Mount Carmel defeat No. 10 Simeon, 23-14, in the opening game of the 2011 season.
“It feels great,” said Butkus of playing at Soldier Field. “There’s nothing much else to say. He played here for a couple years. It’s feels great to be on it, step on the field he did.
“This means a lot. First game coming out, playing good, playing a strong team, having a win, it’s awesome.”
A year ago at Soldier Field, Simeon upset Mount Carmel in a 47-41 shootout. On Friday, it was a lower scoring affair.
After Mount Carmel took a 7-6 lead into halftime, thanks to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Butkus to Jason Gasser, the Caravan offense began moving the ball more easily in the second half. Mount Carmel looked to senior speedy running back Brandon Greer, who rushed once in the first half for -6 yards, to change the offensive tide.
On Greer’s first carry of the second half, he busted it for 36 yards. Three runs later, he nearly scored for the Caravan. Greer broke through Simeon’s line, ran for 19 yards and, as he approached the end zone, stuck the ball out, hoping to cross the goal line. The ball came loose from his hand and Simeon recovered.
“I told him when he sat down, ‘I’m not going to yell at you,’” Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti said. “‘You owe me one. You owe me a touchdown. The next time we get the ball, you owe me a touchdown. Promise?’ He said, ‘I promise.’”
Following a Mount Carmel safety, Greer came through on his guarantee. He found a hole up the middle and sprinted for a 41-yard touchdown to give Mount Carmel a 16-6 advantage.
“He said I owed him,” Greer said. “I felt like I had to go back out there and do it for the team.”
Greer rushed for 160 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries in the second half.
Butkus put the Caravan ahead 23-6 when he rushed in from four yards out with 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Butkus was 3-of-6 passing for 30 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 37 yards on 11 carries.
“He always plays very confident,” Lenti said of Butkus. “I told him before we left school, ‘When I give the team a motivational talk before the game, you can listen to the words, but you cannot get caught up in the emotion. You’re the quarterback of the team. You have to be cool, calm and collected.’
“He said (afterward,) ‘I did it. I did it. I did.’ I said, ‘Quit having such big eyes. You’re making me nervous.’”
Simeon senior Robert Gregory had an up-and-down day. Gregory had made a name for himself against Mount Carmel last season, but he struggled on Friday due to an injured left shoulder. Simeon coach Dante Culbreath estimated that Gregory was playing at 65 percent.
Despite his injury, Gregory still threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 51 yards.
“He wanted to run, but he’s banged up,” Culbreath said. “You want to run the ball, but you think about the banged up part.
“It was some first-game stuff (we struggled with today.) We’re lacking some experience now. As long as the season goes on, we know we have eight more games we know we’re going to have to play. We hope by the eighth game we’ll have everything cleaned up. I’ve seen a lot of great things from our team.”
Mount Carmel’s Frank Kelly intercepted a pass, and Caravan sophomore Steve Richardson Jr. was credited with the tackle which resulted in the safety.
Simeon’s Cywettnie Brown and John Gardner caught the Wolverines’ two touchdown passes.