MUNDELEIN, Ill. -- With the final seconds of a wild first quarter ticking away, No. 7 Carmel knew it needed a stop.
“Our guys didn’t need any reassurance that we could force them off the field,” coach Andy Bitto said. “We just kept battling.”
Battled they did, en route to a key 31-28 victory over No. 4 Joliet Catholic.
The Corsair offense got things going on the game’s opening drive courtesy of a Jordan Kos 25-yard touchdown run that give Carmel (4-0) a quick 7-0 lead. It didn’t last long, as Joliet Catholic needed only one play from scrimmage to go 80 yards, thanks to electric running back Josh Ferguson.
Carmel regained the lead as quarterback Brian Serio threw a touchdown pass, but then the Joliet backfield was at it again, with Malin Jones taking a handoff 73 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
Back and forth the teams went. Serio again found an open receiver, Ryan Cappis, for a 15-yard score. But the very next kickoff, Joliet Catholic (3-1) responded as Josh Ferguson flew 95 yards to even the game again. In only three possessions and two offensive plays, Joliet Catholic had produced 21 points.
“I was just about ready to trip one of their guys going up the sidelines…that was the only way we were going to stop them at that point in the game,” said Bitto.
Both teams’ defenses did respond following the 42-point first quarter, as the score remained tied at halftime. That trend continued on into the 3rd quarter until Serio and the Carmel offense put together a 56-yard drive cumulating with an 11-yard quarterback keeper.
Ferguson, who had reached the century mark by halftime, was held under 50 yards in the second half.
“Give credit to their defense for stepping up and making plays,” said Ferguson.
Player of the game: Brian Serio, QB, Carmel. Serio was methodical and efficient throughout the entire night, passing for two scores and rushing for another.
Stat of the game: After a first quarter in which the Hilltoppers offense and special teams produced points on the first three possessions, they were shut out until 2:06 remained in the 4th quarter.
It was over when…: Joliet Catholic failed to recover an onside kick with a little over two minutes remaining and no time outs.
Quote of the night: “Over the past 11 years, this game has decided the conference championship…so getting this one now is nice.” --Carmel coach Andy Bitto