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Western Springs, IL - November 10, 2012: Mt Carmel's quarterback Don Butkus (8) passes the ball vs Lyons Township. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Special teams made the difference for No. 3 seed Mount Carmel in its Class 8A state quarterfinal Saturday night at Lyons.
Midnight came early for Cinderella Lyons, a No. 15 seed, which entered Saturday night’s as the last remaining four-loss team in the playoffs. The Caravan forced two turnovers that were turned into touchdowns to begin the third quarter and Mount Carmel scored another touchdown in the quarter to rout Lyons 45-10.
Mount Carmel (11-1) beat Lyons (7-5) for the second time in three years in the quarterfinals after winning 41-10 in 2010. Lyons lost in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year while the Caravan advanced to the state semifinals for the 21st time in school history. The Caravan will play undefeated Neuqua Valley, a 23-20 winner over Waubonsie Valley, in the semifinals.
A 21-point third quarter and an injury to Lyons’ top player, Northwestern-bound receiver-cornerback Matthew Harris, deflated Lyons after the game was tied at 10 at halftime.
“I’ve never had a team that imploded like that,” Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. “You can’t win in the quarterfinals against good teams and do that to yourself.”
A stiff wind to the north didn’t help Lyons to open the second half. Ivan Strmic’s kickoff after the half was fumbled by Jemari Burks and recovered by Jimmy Mickens at the Lyons 7. In two plays, Matt Domer (17 carries, 98 yards) scored the first of his two touchdown runs in a span of 11 seconds.
The next kickoff was muffed by Harris and recovered by Justin Sanchez. Sanchez could not advance the ball, which bounced off Harris, but Domer needed only one play to score on a 13-yard touchdown run. On both kickoff returns, Burks and Harris struggled to catch Strmic’s high boot short of the goal line.
“We knew we needed to come out fast,” Sanchez said. “It was a big thrill. We needed to make a play on the field and it helped a lot.”
Mickens added a touchdown of his own on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“Coach (Frank Lenti) tells us we need to keep the game tilted,” Mickens said. “We took our opportunities and they made mistakes.”
The Caravan’s third touchdown in the third quarter came on Don Butkus’ 1-yard sneak to end a 14-play, 58-yard drive.
Harris was injured with 8:55 to go in the third quarter after fumbling at the end of a four-yard run. He came out with an injury to his right knee and did not return.
Lyons had a turnover overturned late in the second quarter when Zach Mahoney’s desperation flip toward the end zone was intercepted by Vincent Speller at the goal line. Lyons kept possession due to a Mount Carmel holding penalty and scored two plays later when Harris took the center snap and scored out of the Wildcat with a 1-yard touchdown run to the right.
The play gave Lyons a 10-7 lead with 3:04 before the half.
Both teams traded field goals in the first half. Lyons’ Jake Elliott opened the scoring with a 37-yard field goal with 2:04 to go in the first quarter. Strmic ended the first half with a 47-yard field goal with a stiff wind at his back to tie the game at 10 with 12.3 before halftime.
Mount Carmel’s only first-half touchdown came with 8:42 to go in the second half on Draco Smith’s 7-yard touchdown run to end a 12-play, 80-yard drive.