EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — In the week leading up to its Class 7A state semifinal against Edwardsville, Mount Carmel emphasized starting quickly.
The offense was in "atonement mode," according to coach Frank Lenti, for scoring only seven points last week against Downers Grove North.
When Matt Domer took his first carry 49 yards for a touchdown, the reconciliation began. It ended with the Caravan on top 34-7.
"It was great because they were the No. 1 seed," Lenti said. "For a change, we were the underdog. And it's a great role for us to play."
The Caravan scored touchdowns on each of its first three drives and held Edwardsville to a punt, turnover on downs and a fumble on its first three drives. Just over 11 minutes into the game, the Caravan led 21-0.
"Our coaches told us they're a second-half team," defensive tackle Enoch Smith said. "It was important to jump on top of them and keep our foot on their throat. I feel like we did that."
Edwardsville (12-1) threatened late in the second quarter but fumbled on the goal line. The Caravan recovered then ran out the remaining 3 minutes, 19 seconds, content to stay up three touchdowns.
"There's a lot of confidence, definitely," Domer, an Illinois recruit, said of the 21-0 halftime lead. "But you know the other team is going for a state title and you never want to give anything up; they battled the whole way."
Six-foot, 290-pound Steven Richardson (Minnesota) and the 6-2, 275-pound Smith (Michigan State) made life miserable for Edwardsville junior quarterback Dan Marinko, consistently putting pressure on him and forcing him to throw on the run.
"That's the main thing we focus on," Smith said of the defensive line. "Pressuring the quarterback, stopping the run so our linebackers can flow freely and our defensive backs can make plays."
This will be Lenti's 16th state final appearance in his 30 years at Mount Carmel. He's won 10.
"You have to constantly improve if you want to be a success," he said. "You're not resting on your laurels. Lake Zurich has been to the end of the road themselves, and so have we.
"It will be a great atmosphere."
Player of the game: Matt Domer, Mount Carmel, 25 carries, 190 yards, 3 TDs.
Key performers: Mount Carmel — Enoch Smith, Steve Richardson, 9 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss; Nick Johnson, 2 sacks; Jimmy Mickens, 14 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD. Edwardsville — Dan Markino, 14-for-37, 149 yards, TD pass, 2 INT.
Next: 7A final, Mount Carmel vs. Lake Zurich, 4 p.m. Saturday, Huskie Stadium, DeKalb.Copyright © 2015, RedEye