CHICAGO -- Mount Carmel’s players came together and loudly chanted “We’re alive,” during their Monday practice.
The Caravan understood just how fortunate they were to have escaped with an overtime win over Neuqua Valley in last week’s Class 8A second round. With the amount of mistakes it made, Mount Carmel could very well have been sitting at home this week.
On Friday, the Caravan weren’t about to test their luck again. Mount Carmel cleaned up its errors and left no doubt about this week’s outcome as the No. 12 Caravan defeated No. 9 Lyons 41-10 in the quarterfinals at Gately Stadium.
“We had a near-death experience with that game last week,” Mount Carmel quarterback Chris Sujka said. “It was real huge to come out and show that this was the Mount Carmel team.”
The Caravan will meet Homewood-Flossmoor in the semifinals next week. This will be Mount Carmel’s third semifinal appearance in the last four years. The Caravan lost in the semis to Hinsdale Central in 2008 and Glenbard North in 2007.
The Caravan’s defense set the tone early. Mount Carmel’s linemen found easy routes around Lyons’ offensive line and put continuous pressure on Lions quarterback Brian Kelley.
On the third play of the game, Mount Carmel’s Vontrell Williams evaded his blocker and found his way to Kelley for the game’s first sack. Williams would add another later, and the Caravan finished with six sacks on the day.
“Me and [Jon-Stefan] Bodnar complement each other really well,” Williams said. “With [Kevin] Kosiewicz getting the pressure up front, it was flushing the quarterback going out of control. Me and Bodnar really stepped up this week and made things happen.”
Mount Carmel’s offense wasn’t far behind. The Caravan (10-2) opened their scoring account with a 10-yard touchdown run by Michael Banks with 5:11 in the first quarter. A drive later, Sujka scored from five yards out, and Mount Carmel had a 14-0 lead.
The Caravan did allow Lyons (10-2) back in the game for a short time, and Banks blamed himself for it. After Mount Carmel’s defense forced another Lyons’ punt in the second quarter, Banks fumbled the ball and gave it to the Lions on Mount Carmel’s 23-yard line.
Lyons capitalized on the mistake with a field goal and later added a touchdown before halftime. The Lions trailed 21-10 at half.
In the second half, Banks redeemed himself. Showing off his remarkable speed, Banks broke off touchdown runs of 30 and 36 yards to put the game away. He finished with 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
“The whole game after that I knew I had to make a play for my team because of the mishandled punt,” Banks said. “If I didn’t do that, that would have haunted me for the rest of my life if that would have come back and been bad for us. That was in the back of my mind when I was running.”
Sujka also scored three touchdowns and ran for 124 yards. He also was 3-for-4 passing for 58 yards.
Kelley threw for 134 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 77 yards. He threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Mark Sewall.