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High School Football: Mt. Carmel air attack, dominant ‘D’ star in season-opening romp over St. Rita

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

With Mount Carmel struggling to run the ball against a tough St. Rita defensive front early in the 2022 season opener, it was time for the Caravan to unleash an overlooked weapon: the passing game.

“We started off slow running the ball but [coach Jordan Lynch” put together a game plan and we just started throwing,” Mount Carmel quarterback Blainey Dowling said. “It worked. We started picking them apart. Guys got open and I just had to deliver the ball.”

Dowling had a career night to open his senior season, throwing five touchdown passes as the host Caravan rolled to a 35-3 win over St. Rita on Aug. 26.

The CCL/ESCC crossover and the 100th meeting between the rivals.

The second quarter was especially memorable for Dowling, who threw four TD passes in that period. For the game, he completed 17 of 19 passes for 293 yards for the Caravan (1-0).

“Blainey kind of invested in becoming a quarterback,” Mount Carmel coach Jordan Lynch said. “He was seeing a private quarterback coach. He’s a winner, though. He knows what this place is all about.

“There’s a reason he’s one of our captains.”

St. Rita (0-1) managed just 76 yards of total offense but led 3-0 after one quarter.

The points came off the leg of Alabama recruit Conor Talty, who booted a 51-yard field goal that may have been good from 60.

The Caravan took over in the second quarter. Dowling hit Damarion Arrington for a 20-yard TD pass, found Denny Furlong for a 55-yard score and connected with Darrion Gilliam on a 48-yard TD pass.

By the time Arrington hauled in his second scoring catch on a 12-yarder with 37 seconds left in the first half, Mount Carmel led 28-3.

“We run the ball, run the ball, that opens up the pass,” Dowling said. “That’s huge. Then when we’re throwing it, that opens the run back up. Once you’re clicking, you’re going.

“Pounding the rock is what I love. I’d rather run the ball than pass. But we’ll do what works.”

Mount Carmel did run the ball some, with Alonzo Manning — a transfer from Marist — gaining 70 yards on 12 carries. Four-star recruit Darion Dupree was not needed much and finished with 29 yards on five carries plus four catches for 39 yards.

Furlong hauled in three catches for 97 yards, while Arrington had four catches for 67 yards.

The Caravan defense, meanwhile, was dominant. St. Rita had just one pass completion for one yard.

“We were expecting them to throw it deep and everything but I don’t think they even did that once,” Mount Carmel linebacker Danny Novickas said. “They have a new quarterback. He definitely didn’t know what it was like to go against a Mount Carmel defense like that.”

After dealing with a lot of preseason hype, including being ranked No. 1 in Class 7A in the Association Press poll and being ranked No. 1 overall by multiple publications, the Caravan looked the part.

“It’s good to get that first one under the belt,” Lynch said. “What a great atmosphere. People have to come and play us here; it’s a tough atmosphere.

“I want to thank Mount Carmel, the whole faculty and staff that puts on a great show to create this atmosphere.”

Pat Farrell had a sack and two tackles for loss for St. Rita. Quarterback Jett Hilding ran for 43 yards on seven carries.

The Mustangs will look to bounce back, but their path does not get easier with its next two games against Brother Rice and Loyola.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re better at executing what we want to do and find that identity,” said St. Rita coach Todd Kuska, who earlier in the week announced this season will be his last. “Once we do that, we’ll be all right.

“It’s Week 1. We’ve been down this road before. We’ll regroup and find out who we are. Each week, as long as we’re getting better, there’s a prize at the end of the tournament and not the beginning.”

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