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Carmel's quarterback Nick Grandolfo (9) runs the ball as Nazareth's Patrick Vitek (43) moves in for a tackle. | Steve Johnston~For Sun-Times Media
Stop the run. Force the pass. It was a winning combination for Carmel’s football team on Saturday.
The Corsairs nearly shut out No. 24 Nazareth 13-7 to pick up their biggest win of the season.
After the game, Carmel coach Andy Bitto allowed each of his assistant coaches to say a few words to the team. A common theme was, “revival” for the Corsairs (2-3, 2-1 East Suburban Catholic), who have new life this season with two wins in their last three games.
But the road back to playoff aspirations will not be easy, starting with Friday night’s home game against No. 8 Marist (5-0) and followed by a road game against No. 18 Joliet Catholic (3-2) on Oct. 5. The regular season ends with a game against Notre Dame (4-1).
Carmel’s 3-5-3 defense was mainly responsible for the victory at Nazareth. The Roadrunners (2-3, 0-3) looked flat without leading rusher Rudy Romagnano, who will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee a week earlier at Joliet Catholic.
But with Joshua Moore and Aeneas White on board, Nazareth still has a potent running game.
“We came together in the last week after our tough loss (28-25 at St. Viator),” Carmel middle linebacker Brett Blum said. “At the beginning (Saturday), we had confidence. We have to continue it — we have to work hard. We’re having fun. You can’t ask for any better teammates.”
Nazareth rushed for only 58 yards in the first half, and Moore was limited to 33 yards. Moore (22 carries, 66 yards) continued to gain yards in the second half, but his longest gain of the afternoon was 11 yards in the second quarter.
White (seven carries, 43 yards) wasn’t a major factor, and freshman Christopher Simmons gained 14 yards on his only carry.
By limiting Nazareth’s rushing attack, Roadrunners junior quarterback Jake Bartels, a Division I baseball prospect as a pitcher, struggled while finishing 8-for-22 passing for 64 yards with three interceptions — including two by safety Matthew Kelly.
Blum attributed the defense’s success in stopping the run to assistant coach Jim Rejc. Blum claimed Rejc can predict every running play an opponent will run before it is called.
“I have been trying to push to the kids, there are things you have to do your best when they run a play,” Rejc said. “You have to play fast, focus and tackle hard. If you do those three things, any defense will be able to go against the run.”
Carmel’s front three features 6-1, 215-pound Grant Stredler and Billy Dolan (6-2, 216), along with the rotation of Joe Morris (5-10, 202) and J.J. Porter (6-4, 191).
Moore scored Nazareth’s only touchdown on a one-yard run with 3:47 remaining in the game, after Carmel’s Josh Walinski fumbled inside the 5-yard line. Carmel started the drive deep in its own territory, after Kelly earned his second interception of the game at Carmel’s 4.
“We run a three-man front because people throw so much,” Bitto said. “Our defense is geared toward the 21st Century. You have to stop the running game no matter what.” ~.