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Mount Carmel celebrates 12th state football championship with rally

Oscar Reyes takes phoJack White holding 2013 7A Football State Championship Trophy Mount Carmel High School December 4 2013. |

Oscar Reyes takes a photo of Jack White holding the 2013 7A Football State Championship Trophy at Mount Carmel High School on December 4, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 6, 2014 1:16PM



Sam Connolly didn’t carry the football for Mount Carmel this fall, but on Wednesday he was toting something more important.

The honor of bringing the Illinois High School Association Class 7A championship trophy into a pep rally for the program’s newest title team fell to Connolly, a senior linebacker.

And he made sure the hardware didn’t fall.

“Absolutely not, I would never drop it,” Connolly said.

Like most everything else this season, the trophy procession went according to plan for the Caravan, which won its second straight title, 11th in 30 seasons under coach Frank Lenti and 12th overall.

Wednesday’s celebration in the school’s Cacciatore Athletic Center was the latest stop on the victory tour for Mount Carmel, which beat Lake Zurich 30-0 in the Class 7A final Saturday in DeKalb.

Just four days later, there was a 2013 Class 7A football championship banner hanging above the west bleachers, right between ones for the 2012 8A football champs and the 2013 4A baseball winners.

There were speeches, from school president the Rev. Tony Mazurkiewicz (himself a former Caravan football star), principal John Stimler and Lenti.

And Patrick McCaskey, a Bears executive, delivered an a capella rewrite of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears,” with new lyrics celebrating the Caravan.

Mazurkiewicz urged the players, and the rest of the student body, to remember the friendships formed here “as you live this out each and every day.”

Stimler, noting the 11 other football championship trophies on display nearby, said, “We are a school of champions.”

He and Lenti both cited the contributions of the program’s assistant coaches, some of whom have been on the Caravan staff for more than 20 years. In those early years, Lenti and his staff were still headquartered in tiny offices in the basement of Mount Carmel’s original building. Now, they have plenty of space and modern amenities near the new gym.

“This is kind of like the Taj Mahal” compared to the old space, Lenti said. “But it still comes down to people. A college coach told me one time when he came to visit us and he saw our lack of facilities ... ‘It shows that it comes down to players and coaches.’

“... People want to point to the Donovan McNabbs and Simeon Rices,” Lenti added. “They don’t come along very often. What I think our coaching staff has always done is taken a lot of good high school football players and turned them into great football teams.”

Like this year’s Caravan, for example.



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