Mount Carmel's Brendan Griffin screams after scoring a touchdown against St. Patrick. | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:47AM
There were some hiccups from the get-go as top-ranked Mount Carmel played its first game as the defending Class 8A champion Saturday.
A day after storms played havoc with the opening night schedule, more bad weather pushed back by two-plus hours the kickoff for the opener of a Soldier Field prep tripleheader.
When the game against St. Patrick finally began, a muffed snap on a punt ended the Caravan’s first offensive series. The second possession ended with a lost fumble.
“You settle down after a quarter or so,” senior two-way starter Christian Searles said. “You play at Soldier Field, it’s hard not to look around like, ‘Wow, I’m at Soldier Field.’ ”
But Searles has been there and done that.
“Being a senior, last year was my nervous year. I was confident (this time).”
That self-assurance showed in Searles’ performance: an interception returned for a touchdown and two scoring catches in Mount Carmel’s 40-0 shutout of St. Patrick.
Nick Johnson had four tackles for loss and Deontae Brown had an interception for the experienced Caravan defense. That unit also had a strong presence up front in Big Ten recruits Enoch Smith Jr. (Michigan State) and Steven Richardson (Minnesota), among others.
“All credit goes to the D-line,” said Johnson, who also is getting Division I looks. “They open gaps and move people around for the linebackers to fill in and go to the ball.”
Searles also appreciates the push from the big guys. “They put pressure on the quarterback to make our job easier.”
Searles made his job seem simple all day long.
His first big play came when he picked off St. Patrick quarterback Zach Fuller and ran it back for the game’s first touchdown at 1:47 of the first quarter.
“I knew the quarterback was rolling (out) so he might not be as accurate,” Searles said. “I never get picks on my feet, so once I got it I was just running for my life.”
Searles also helped pick up the Caravan offense, which had an apparent Matt Domer touchdown run wiped out by a penalty on its third possession.
Domer (10 carries, 61 yards) ran 15 yards for a score with 9:09 left in the second quarter, pushing the lead to 14-0. Jimmy Mickens (11 carries, 66 yards) and junior Jaquan Buntyn (10 carries, 55 yards, all after halftime) also were productive runners.
After starting 1-for-4 passing, senior Marko Boricich (6-of-9, 81 yards) — making his debut as a varsity starter — completed his final five passes. Three of them went for touchdowns: a 16-yarder to tight end Brendan Griffin 2:06 before halftime, a 10-yarder to Searles at 4:19 of the third and a 14-yarder to Searles with 9:51 left in the game.
“Marko had to get some butterflies out,” Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti said. “We had some guys open, he got sloppy on the passes. There’s no excuse, the rain is the same for everybody. Find a way, find a way to get it done.”
After that slow start, all of the Caravan players did just that.