The IHSA state finals are just a week away, and two Chicago-area teams will be battling for a chance to go downstate to Champaign and play for the hardware.
For Mount Carmel, state final appearances are nothing new. Under the guidance of long-time coach Frank Lenti Sr., the Caravan are familiar with the state finals, having been there just two years ago.
For Nequa Valley, this is a big year. They played a tough schedule including two close games against rival Waubonsie Valley. As a matter of fact, Waubosnie Valley's only losses this year came against Nequa.
Mount Carmel's one loss thus far came against perennial power Loyola Academy of Wilmette, IL.
Here's who to watch in this one:
Enoch Smith Jr.
Smith is the cornerstone of the Mount Carmel defense. He commands double-teams on a regular basis and opens things up for other defenders to make plays. Nequa has a better offensive line than a majority of the teams Smith has faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how effective he can be in this one.
Smith (no relation to Enoch), a senior, has been a workhorse this season, getting close to 30 carries a game, many of which are 4-5 yards at a time. But he's been pacing the run game this year for Mount Carmel, and that should be no different in this one.
The other tailback in the Caravan backfield is junior Matt Domer. Domer is more of the big play back for Mount Carmel. He makes up a great other half to Smith in a 1-2 punch that keeps the defense guessing.
Nequa's biggest playmaker will be counted upon in a big way. Dudek isn't the biggest guy on the field, but he will be the fastest. The slot receiver with 4.3 speed will be tough for the Caravan to contain. If he gets loose, it could be a long day for the Mount Carmel defense.
Rhattigan is a tank. Not the fastest guy, but he gets the nasty yards that open things up for the Nequa passing game. He's especially effective in goal-line situations, but it will be fun to watch what he can do against the stout Mt. Carmel front line.
Geers is a 6'7" 285 pound offensive lineman who will be counted upon to give Nequa's passing game to work. He may not be going one-on-one with Smith Jr. much, but he'll need to do his part on the line. If he can own his spot on the line, it should allow Nequa to execute their gameplan.
More to follow this game.