Mount Carmel quarterback Rad Premovic did a pretty good imitation of his coach to break the backs of the East St. Louis Flyers in a 29-19 Illinois Class 7A football quarterfinal victory at Chicago’s Gately Stadium Saturday.
When the Caravan last spring suddenly announced it was parting ways with legendary coach Frank Lenti and his 11 state championships, it turned to Jordan Lynch, 27, a former Mount Carmel hero himself who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy while at Northern Illinois and scored the winning touchdown in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup just three years ago.
And Lynch holds the NCAA record for most season rushing yards by a quarterback.
Saturday, it was Premovic who slipped from the passer’s pocket and into a 63-yard scoring sprint that put East St. Louis into a 16-point hole late and send the Caravan to the state semifinals.
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“I would love to give him the credit for seeing something (and making the play call), but it was a designed play.,” Lynch said. “But he does a good job all week in practice and he hit the right hole in that instance. It was off to the races.”
Mount Carmel (11-1) ended the Flyers season last year in the quarterfinals at Gately Stadium.
It wasn’t Premovic’s big play alone that dropped East Side to 9-3, though. The Flyers, in fact, out-gained Mount Carmel 392 offensive yards to 308, but were done in by bad field position, untimely turnovers and a costly lapse on special teams.
Both Lynch and Premovic credited the Mount Carmel defense for holding the Flyers, who entered the game averaging 54 points per game.
“That’s a team that always wants to throw deep, always wants the big play right?” said Lynch. “We made them not live on the big play and take four yards at a time. They’re not happy with that.”
The game was scoreless through most of the first half until Mount Carmel sophomore Julian Patino booted a 27-yard field goal to break the tie. Then East St. Louis running back Treven Swingler fumbled on the Mount Carmel 41 to set up the Caravan offense with a short field. Premovic hit Kieran Conjar on a two-yard scoring play to make the score 10-0 at the half.
Mount Carmel might have seized the momentum when Eddie McGee broke loose on an 84-yard touchdown on the kickoff to start the second half, but the Flyers responded less than four minutes later when quarterback Tyler Macon, on fourth down, found Antonio Johnson in the end zone to narrow their deficit back to 10.
With East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett shouting from the sidelines to rearrange the Flyers defense, Premovic broke up the middle on a draw play and sprinted to a very Lynch-esque touchdown that made it a three-score game late in the third quarter. That lead only widened when Demetrius Rias, carrying the load for injured Mount Carmel running back Kyle Davis, scored on a 14-yard run.
With a 6-yard scoring run by Macon and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Cotton, the Flyers restored enough hope to attempt a pair of on-sides kicks that might have set up a miracle comeback. But the deficit was too deep to overcome.
“That is a well-coached team down there and the record speaks for itself,” Lynch said. “They play a lot of teams, too, not just in Illinois, but across the country. We don’t have a lot of Division I players, but we’ve got kids who are hungry and want to get to that next level and want to get to state.”
Premovic finished with a 71 yards on nine carries. He also completed 11 of 18 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Conjar led Mount Carmel with six receptions for 53 yards.
““We’ve rotated running backs all year,” Premovic said. “Demetrius (Rias) stepped up and scored that touchdown. We have guys who can make plays. You have to take your hats off to the defense. I think they are pretty much the main reason we got this far.”
All the best statistical performers came off the East St. Louis sideline.
Macon completed 13 of 26 passes for 162 yards and two scores. He was intercepted late in the game. Swingler had a game-high 92 yards on 10 carries. DeMonta Witherspoon rushed for 59 yards on nine attempts, but was slowed by a twisted ankle suffered during the first half. Cotton caught four passes for 63 yards
East St. Louis, whose eight state titles ranks fourth in IHSA history, saw its season ended at 9-3. Mount Carmel, No. 2 on the IHSA championship list with 12, will face St. Charles North in the semifinals next week. The other semifinal pits Batavia against Nazareth Academy.