Mater Dei and Mt. Carmel endured three lightning delays Friday night that sent the game nearly to midnight, but it was all Mt. Carmel once the teams resumed play midway through the third quarter.
Trailing 20-7 after the third lightning delay, the Mt. Carmel Golden Aces scored 20 unanswered points and escaped Breese with a 27-20 victory over the Mater Dei Knights.
Mt. Carmel (4-0) began the game-winning drive on its own 24-yard line with 8:41 remaining and worked its way methodically down the field. With quarterback Daxton Peach and Trevor Kennard doing all the damage on the ground, the Aces worked way down the field. Peach bulled his way into the end zone on fourth-and-1 at the Mater Dei 4, putting his team on top with 1:09 remaining. Wyatt Hargrave added the 2-point conversion to provide the final margin of victory.
“I think they were a little confused, our offense is set up to be a little confusing,” said Peach, who finished with 197 yards rushing on 29 carries. “It’s hard to defend, I give props to them. They did the best they could.”
Mater Dei (2-2) had one more chance, taking over at the 30-yard line. A tipped interception by Mt. Carmel’s Zach Whittler on a pass from Mater Dei quarterback Colin Schuetz clinched the win in a game that lasted more than four hours because of the weather delays.
Why was Mt. Carmel’s diverse running game so tough to stop?
“Good question. We’ll have to check that out,” Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel said. “It wasn’t anything different than what we prepared our kids for. Obviously we couldn’t stop it.”
Did Stiebel feel the Knights had a different emotion coming out of the final delay?
“I thought we were in good spirits ready to go,” Stiebel said. “We told them get a stop and a score and that’s ballgame. That’s not what we got.”
After two previous lightning delays of 30 minutes each, officials halted play again midway through the third quarter with Mater Dei, ranked ninth in the state in the latest Class 4A state poll, leading 20-7.
Once play resumed, Mt. Carmel took over at the Mater Dei 31-yard line and scored a few plays later on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Daxton Peach to Quade Ballard off two play fakes. The extra-point was wide and the Golden Aces trailed 20-13.
Mater Dei lost a fumble that was recovered by Mt. Carmel’s Jackson Marcotte at the Knights’ 31. Peach bulled his way into the end zone from the 1, but the Knights stopped the 2-point conversion attempt to maintain a 20-19 lead with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter.
Mt. Carmel entered the game with a 3-0 record and was averaging nearly 330 yards rushing per game led by Kennard. Kennard began Friday with 639 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, averaging 213 yards per game, and is over 4,000 yards rushing in his career.
The Knights had won the previous two meetings against the Golden Aces from the Illinois-Indians border town of Mt. Carmel, posting 61-36 and 40-33 victories. Mt. Carmel won 37-6 in 2013.
Mater Dei scored two easy touchdowns to open the game and appeared on the verge of a blowout, at least momentarily.
Schuetz rolled into the end zone from 11 yards out to open the scoring and Logan Johnson’s extra-point made it 7-0.
Mater Dei recovered a fumble deep in Mt. Carmel territory and struck again , pushing its lead to 14-0 on a 21-yard pass from Schuetz to Trever Johnson with 8:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Mt. Carmel made some in-game adjustments that paid off as the Golden Aces’ defense tightened and the offense began chewing up yardage.
Mt. Carmel’s Kennard had a 26-yard run in the first half. Mater Dei kept him in check for the most part, then quarterback Peach began finding some running room.
Peach had two runs of 25 yards or more in the first half and scored on a 15-yard run with 4:16 remaining in the first half. Wyatt Hargrave’s extra-point cut Mater Dei’s lead to 14-7.
Midway through the third quarter, Peach had racked up 123 yards on 15 carries.
Mater Dei’s Travis Jasper recovered a fumble on the kickoff to start the half following two 30-minute lightning delays.
Four plays later, Mater Dei’s Jake Wieter rambled 34 yards across the wet artificial turf and the Knights led 20-7.
For most of the night, the stands on both sides of the field stood empty as officials cleared the field several times because of lightning in the area.