Game of the Week: Throw out the records, it's Rita week
One of the most storied rivalries in Illinois high school football resumes Friday, September 23, when the 3-1 Mount Carmel Caravan will take on the 2-2 Saint Rita Mustangs in a week 5 match up at Gately Stadium. While this year's meeting may not be as hyped as in previous years, the game should be exciting for fan bases of both schools.
The Mustangs currently are in unfamiliar territory, un-ranked in many polls, including that of the Chicago Sun Times. This seems unreasonable, given head coach Todd Kuska's career record of 150-56. In addition to that outstanding career winning percentage, Kuska has coached four players who have gone on to play in the National Football League.
If Kuska's credentials aren't enough to get the Caravan's attention, the Mustangs' lethal offense, which averaged 43.5 points per game through the first four weeks, should do the trick.
Running back Shaun Rule has had some stellar games, including a 223 rushing yard and three touchdown performance against Rich Central.
On the other hand, the Mustangs' quarterback position has been unsettled, with junior Jake Zylman and senior Conor Kelly alternating throughout games. Still, a unit that is capable of putting up that many points should keep the Caravan defense on its toes.
The Mustangs' defense has been outperformed by the offense, but arguably features the team's best player, linebacker Marc Mondesir, who is getting heavily recruited by Illinois.
The 3rd ranked Caravan may have the more well-rounded team this year, as shown in performances through the first quarter of the season. As the all time-winningest coach in Illinois high school history, Frank Lenti has some exceptional talent on both sides of the football.
In each of its four games, the Caravan's explosive offense has rattled opposing defenses, averaging over 45 points. Even in its one loss to Loyola, the offense staged a dramatic 4th quarter comeback and came within 11 yards of potentially winning the game.
The unit is led by running back Michael Kennedy, who already has committed to Northern Illinois, and four star offensive tackle Verdis Brown, a junior. The latter's talent has been recognized nationally, as indicated by number of offers he has received already. In an interview with EdgyTim on CNN Preps Plus over the summer, Brown acknowledged the attention he is receiving.
"I have 10 offers so far," according to Brown. "I have offers now from Illinois, Ohio State, Indiana, Florida, Florida State, Purdue, Toledo, Missouri, Michigan State and Ole Miss."
On the other side of the ball, the Caravan defense has shown some flashes that are reminiscent of the 2013 state championship team.
The secondary is led by defensive back Phazione McClurge, who likely is headed to North Dakota State, and safety Macauley Kilbane.
Defensive coordinator Dave Lenti's defensive line also has had some dominant moments, frequently breaking through offensive lines and getting to the quarterback.
In their storied competition, Mount Carmel has out-dueled Rita by a considerable margin. In the 94 previous meetings, the Caravan has won 61. The Caravan's 12 state championships also outnumber the Mustangs' two.
However, when Mount Carmel and St. Rita meet, you can throw out all those records, and even look beyond this year's records and polls. It's the south side's greatest rivalry, and arguably one of the best in the nation.
Watch St. Rita vs. Mount Carmel for Game of the Week, this Friday, Septmeber 23 at 10 PM on The U Too.
Conor Langs, Mount Carmel High School