National Signing Day: Mount Carmel has 17 football players make college signings
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org February 5, 2014 8:04PM
Mount Carmel had a large contingent of college signees Wednesday. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 7, 2014 1:41PM
Dozens of local high school football players made their college decisions official Wednesday, putting pen to paper on National Signing Day.
From nationally known Division I programs, such as Notre Dame and Michigan State, to smaller programs, such as Olivet Nazarene and McKendree, Signing Day certified the Southland will be well represented on the national and local collegiate levels.
The biggest splash was made by two-time defending state football champion Mount Carmel, which had 17 college-bound players sign Wednesday.
The Caravan has developed some exceptional talent through the years, but it’s debatable whether a specific class of graduates has exceeded the bumper crop of 2014.
Listening to the words of Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti, the attraction isn’t by accident.
“I don’t think we’re done yet. There still are a few more kids who are undecided,” said Lenti, who has guided the program to 10 of its 11 state titles. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a group like this. In the 1990s we had 15 to 20 kids sign in one year.
“The fact that they come from Mount Carmel, people want our kids. They know they’re going to get well-educated, well-disciplined and well-coached kids. The reputation is out there among college coaches.”
It’s a difficult notion to dispute, considering the success of the program and the number of players receiving an opportunity to compete at the next level.
It was all on display at 64th and Dante on Wednesday, with the 2012 and ’13 state championships providing additional eye candy.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Mount Carmel running back Matt Domer, an Illinois recruit and Hazel Crest resident. “To see the people I came here with freshman year to have the opportunity to play college ball at the next level is special. All the photographers and cameras that were here, the state championship trophies. It was like a movie.”
For Mount Carmel senior Christian Searles, who grew up in Flossmoor, the reality of signing a Division I Letter of Intent was the culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifice.
“For me, it was a surreal moment, a dream come true,” said Searles, who graduated from Infant of Jesus Prague School in Flossmoor. “I was looking at some pictures when I was in second or third grade. I really didn’t realize how long the journey has been. As a kid, you dream of playing high school football. Then when you’re in high school, you dream of one day playing Division I college. It’s been a great four years, but it’s been a lot of work, too.”
Domer, a 2013 SouthtownStar All-Area running back, will be joined at the Champaign campus by two other prize Southland standouts, Lincoln-Way East lineman Nick Allegretti and Lincoln-Way North athlete Julian Hylton. Despite Illinois’ recent struggles, Domer never considered reversing course and decommitting — a trend that is gaining traction among recruits after they verbally commit.
“The (recruiting) process was long,” said Domer, who plans to major in pre-law. “Every day people were decommiting — that’s just not who I am. I knew Illinois was the best fit for me. I was locked in the whole time.”
Searles has the versatility to play wide receiver or defensive back. He’ll likely find himself in Dayton’s secondary because of need. Searles, a 2013 SouthtownStar All-Area selection, likes the fact that Dayton is close to home.
“I love the distance from my house,” he said. “My family can come watch me play. Academically, it’s a very good school. It’s the right fit for me.”