Mount Carmel, historically, already knows the expectation for any incoming class.
The Caravan, dating back to 1980, have now won 14 state titles.
“Winning state at Carmel is a big deal,” Caravan senior quarterback Blainey Dowling said following Mount Carmel’s 44-20 victory over Batavia in Saturday’s Class 7A state title game in Champaign. “They were saying [during the week] ‘The Club’, you know? Now that you’re in the club, it’s a great feeling. When you come to Mount Carmel, [you] play in state championships.”
The road to perfection was one Mount Carmel was destined for. The Caravan last won a state title in 2019 and ended that season in perfect fashion. Saturday proved no different.
The matchup was widely-anticipated for both programs, as Mount Carmel defeated Batavia in controversial fashion in last year’s second round. This time, though, Mount Carmel didn’t need overtime to ultimately finish the job.
The Caravan took a 28-0 lead on four Dowling touchdown passes, the first two to Jimmy Deacy for 11 and 27 yards, respectively. Damarion Arrington (6 catches, 68 yards) and Jaden Bossie (4 catches, 58 yards) added touchdown grabs as the Caravan seized control early.
Dowling, who entered Saturday with 39 touchdowns and 2,719 passing yards, looked every bit of the program record-breaking quarterback he demonstrated to be all season. Dowling finished 25 of 40 for 262 yards and four touchdowns. Saturday’s contest was the most passes combined for a Class 7A state final, 74 total.
“This is a special group,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “2018 was my first year I took over and these kids were in eighth grade … Obviously, 2019 was very special for me winning state — my first time — but these are my guys. This is the first class I had.”
Batavia (10-4) running back Ryan Whitwell (14 rushes, 57 yards) eventually scored from 3 yards out to put the Bulldogs on the board with 4:31 left in the first half, but the ensuing extra point missed.
Caravan junior kicker Louie Chappetto added a 24-yard field goal to make it 31-6 Caravan, and Batavia countered with a 12-yard touchdown reception to CJ Valente from quarterback Ryan Boe. The two-point conversion failed and the Bulldogs trailed 31-12.
The Caravan (14-0) kept the heat on in the second half despite a spirited effort to stay in contention by Batavia.
Out of the break, Batavia was beginning to drive into Mount Carmel territory, but Boe (16 of 31, 148 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception) was intercepted on a screen pass by Caravan senior Bobby Medina. Bossie later cashed in for a 12-yard rushing score, and the extra point was missed for the 37-12 Caravan lead with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
Batavia had a fourth-and-goal chance with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter, but Boe’s attempt to Brady Ninowksi was high and incomplete.
Mount Carmel put the finishing touch on the victory with a fourth-down fake punt that Jack Elliott completed to Arrington for 60 yards to stun Batavia and take the 44-12 lead with 9:42 left.
Charlie Whelpley (8 rushes, 35 yards) added one more Bulldogs score on a direct snap run from 15 yards out and converted the two-point try to make it 44-20 Caravan with 5:53 left. Whelpley was later intercepted on a deep pass to Boe with 4:32 left in the Bulldogs’ last-ditch effort for a spark.
“It just shows we all got heart,” Batavia senior linebacker and Wisconsin commit Tyler Jansey said on his team’s character. “That’s something that’s just built in the offseason, grinding throughout the season. It’s been obvious since the start: We don’t quit. Against Lincoln-Way East [week two], we were down 31-0 and then second half, we shut them out on defense … it just shows we care about each other. We’re going to go fighting for each other [until the end].”
Batavia, who last won state titles in 2017 and 2013, was vying for the program’s third overall in history.
“[Ive known] a lot of these boys in first grade, second grade,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “Kindergarten. Probably [Whitwell] within a couple days of his birth, I’m not kidding because I’ve known his father that long … it’s a different sort of thing. This is the guys we get in Batavia. They grow up there and we build them into football teams as best as we can. They work their [butts] off together as a team.
“We’re disappointed a little bit in how we played today,” Piron continued. “All of us tell you that. That’s not just me as their coach, they’ll tell you that as players. We wanted to show better: For our community and for each other. But, in the end, the journey we took, is something [we’ll] remember for the rest of [our] lives. It was wonderful. The time we had these last couple weeks has just been a ball. Tons of fun. Wouldn’t have it any other way — to finish with these guys.”