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Mount Carmel quarterback Don Butkus winds up to throw against De La Salle. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
For punter Joe Pavlik and some of his Mount Carmel football teammates, time management is job one.
Pavlik ranks No. 2 in the school’s senior class, just behind tight end Buster Sheridan and just ahead of offensive lineman Brian Parker.
“Being recognized as 1-2-3 [academically] means a lot to us,” Pavlik said. “We put in a lot of hard work, playing other sports — getting home at 8, 8:30, having to do multiple hours of homework.”
And Sheridan, Pavlik and Parker aren’t getting those grades in cupcake courses. All are taking five advanced placement classes.
And they’re all holding up their end on the field as starters for the Caravan (5-0 overall, 1-0 in league play) heading into Friday’s Me-TV/Sun-Times Catholic League Blue Game of the Week against Loyola at Gately Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Though Pavlik has a heavy academic workload, it’s just the opposite when it comes to football. The No. 4 Caravan has needed him to punt only four times all season. The lack of work hasn’t hurt his effectiveness; Pavlik is averaging 51 yards a kick and none of his punts have been returned.
He appreciates the fact that it’s better for the team when he doesn’t see much action. “The less I punt, the more we’re going to win,” he said.
But that could change as the regular season winds down and Mount Carmel gears up for another IHSA playoff run. No. 6 Loyola (4-1, 1-0), with a diverse offense guided by quarterback Peter Pujals and a physical defense led by defensive back Luke Ford, will present the Caravan with its toughest test to date.
“Realistically, I’m going to punt more in the next four games,” he said.
Pavlik came late to his current position, playing cornerback as a freshman and sophomore. The Caravan’s exceptional depth allows him to concentrate on punting now, and he’s gone all-in by attending a number of camps and even learning the rugby-style punt that’s now in vogue.
The other two members of the academic all-stars are key contributors on a Mount Carmel offense that averages 9.1 yards per snap and 389.6 yards per game.
Sheridan (6-3, 174 pounds), a converted defensive back, and Parker (5-11, 230), a left guard, are part of an offensive line that has been equally adept at opening holes for Matt Domer (45 carries, 655 yards, 12 TDs), Draco Smith (38 carries, 325 yards, 4 TDs) and Don Butkus (22 carries, 139 yards, 5 TDs) and at protecting Butkus (30-of-47, 473 yards, 5 TDs).
“He’s kind of the emotional leader of the offensive line,” Caravan coach Frank Lenti said of Parker. “He doesn’t yell, [but] he gets guys going. ... If he sees somebody making a mistake, he’ll coach them up.”