DeKALB – Facing Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy at quarterback, Mt. Carmel broke out a special scout team quarterback – its head coach.
Caravan coach – and former NIU quarterback and Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch – handled playing McCarthy in practice, and the Caravan shutdown the Nazareth star in a 37-13 win at Huskies Stadium on Saturday in the Class 7A title game.
"I know coach Lynch isn't going to say this, but you guys asked about the defense. Guess who the scout team quarterback was all week? This guy right here," Mt. Carmel receiver Tony Livermore said, motioning to his coach. "So when we came into this we were prepared. We had a Heisman finalist practicing against us."
It was the 13th title for Mt. Carmel (14-0) and the first for Lynch. Aside from standing in for McCarthy – who completed 8 of 25 passes for 116 yards and ran for negative yards – Lynch had some advice for his starting quarterback, his brother Justin Lynch.
"Before the game he was like 'Last time I was on this field, 320 yards,'" Justin Lynch said. "I don't think I got that (laughs)."
"I had to make sure I got that in there," Jordan Lynch said with a laugh.
Lynch scored five touchdowns and finished with 120 rushing yards, with Kenenna Odeluga leading all rushers with 176.
"When you've got three-six (Odeluga) and No. 1 (Justin Lynch) here running the football, no matter how many guys you put in the box or no matter what you try and do, you still have to stop them," Jordan Lynch said. "So it's a great feeling to be back here and a great feeling for these seniors."
Mt. Carmel amassed 403 yards of offense, although 284 of those came in the first half. Nazareth coach Tim Racki said the defense kept them in the game early.
Marcus Griffin forced Justin Lynch to fumble near the end of the first quarter, and to start the game Kaleb Miller returned an interception 65 yards for a score.
But the Mt. Carmel defense shined in stopping McCarthy (10 rushes for negative-5 yards), leading rusher Derrick Strongs (six carries for 23 yards) and leading receiver Tyler Morris (three catches, 24 yards). Strongs did turn a screen pass into a 62-yard touchdown catch for the Roadrunners' only score.
Not only was Racki impressed with the defense, he gave credit to the job Jordan Lynch did coaching, and complimented him further when he found out he was the scout quarterback.
"That's a great move. That's a great coaching move," Racki said. "I'm spoiled cause we have J.J. So I get that. I'm too old for that myself."
The game was close early and Nazareth had a chance to tie in the third when McCarthy fumbled, recovered by Tanasi Chioros at the Nazareth 12. But the Caravan settled for a field goal by Julian Patino from 22 yards out, pushing the lead to 23-13.
The Roadrunners (13-1) went three and out, and a short punt set Mt.. Carmel up in Nazareth territory.
But the defense held again and this time the field goal missed.
Mt. Carmel finally built the lead to three scores when Justin Lynch scored his fourth touchdown of the game with 5:45 left, going up 30-13. He added his fifth in the final minute on a short run.
Although Mt. Carmel dominated the first half, outgaining the Roadrunners 284-103, the Caravan led by seven at halftime, 20-13.
Miller started the scoring with the interception return off of Justin Lynch, but the Caravan scored on the next two drives, on runs of 1 and 13 by Lynch.
McCarthy struggled throughout the rainy and windy first half, missing six straight passes at one point, but found his rhythm with a 62-yard screen Derrick Strongs turned into a score as Nazareth trailed, 14-13.
Mt. Carmel padded the lead back to seven with 10 seconds left in the half on another 1-yard run by Lynch.