Posted On: 04/17/21 5:07 PM

For some reason, I thought one of the lone benefits of a spring season in Illinois would be some warm weather games, but I once again underestimated the Midwest and found myself last night at Mt. Carmel High School cold yet exhilarated for the 7:30 matchup between the Mt. Carmel Caravan and the Saint Viator Lions. I arrived early and caught the end of the JV game, where the defending Illinois Class 7A state champions were putting a bit of a whoopin’ on their CCL counterpart (hence the cover picture), which I hoped was not a foreshadowing of the varsity game to come. However, with St. Viator sitting at 3-0 heading into the game and Mt. Carmel holding a 3-1 record, I had good reason to be excited either way. To find out what happened in the contest, which players earned a game MVP from PrepRedzoneIL, and what names caught my attention for the first time, all you have to do is scroll down! Thanks for reading.

Game Recap

I truly think the game would have been a barn burner if things hadn’t started so rough for the Lions, who received the opening kickoff of the game and then, unfortunately, sent the first offensive snap of the game over QB Jack Ziebka’s head. Mt. Carmel recovered the football inside the 10 of Saint Viator and quickly found themselves on offense and deep in their opponent’s territory. However, the Lions defense came to play, and lead by senior Iowa DT commit Jeremiah Pittman and LBs Daniel Niesman (2021, 5’11 195 lbs.) and junior LB  Carson Eggebraten Carson Eggebraten 6'0" | LB Saint Viator | 2022 IL  (2022, 6’ 200 lbs.) they put up a helluva fight with their backs to their own endzone. They forced a 4th down after some disruptive penetration and physical gang tackling, but Mt. Carmel converted with some tough running of RB Enzo De Rosa (2022, 5’7 175 lbs) Temple University QB commit  Justin Lynch Justin Lynch 6'1" | QB Mt. Carmel | 2021 IL  (2021, 6’1 210 lbs.) behind a scrappy OL led by senior OC Michael Dobrich (6’6, 240 lbs). Viator then once again forced another 4th down after CB Alex Konopka broke up a fade in the endzone on 3rd down. Konopka was again targeted on another fade, and again stepped up and broke up the pass, giving the ball back to his Lions offense and cementing an impressive goalline stand by their defense. Saint Viator’s offense couldn’t get anything going themselves though, and after a short punt that gave Mt. Carmel possession of the football deep in their opponents again, the Caravan kicked a 30ish yard FG which 6’, 220 lbs. K Julian Patino nailed through the uprights. With 5:31 left in the first, Mt. Carmel held a 3-0 lead and kicked the ball back to Saint Viator, who were looking for a fresh start on offense. They got going quickly with a deep completion from Ziebka to senior WR PJ Scales but then fumbled the ball back to Mt. Carmel on the next play, and Lynch used his strong arm to get his offense downfield quickly, where De Rosa caught a short swing pass that he powered into the endzone for the first TD of the game and an eventual 10-0 lead.

The second quarter remained in favor of the Caravan, as junior DB JT Harris picked off an errant Lions pass down the hometeam’s sideline and gave the ball back to his offense. This set up the prettiest TD of the night, as the Temple Owls signee Lynch found a streaking Joey Thompson (2022, 5’9, 175 lbs) on a post route and hit him in stride and right on the money, extending the Caravan lead to 17-0. The two sides battled back and forth for the remainder of the half, with standout defensive plays coming from Viator’s Justin Mirski (interception) and a giant sack by Mt. Carmel’s senior Illinois LB commit  Kenenna Odeluga Kenenna Odeluga 6'0" | ATH Mount Carmel | 2021 IL Things got funky to end the half though, as somehow Mt. Carmel found themselves close enough to the endzone to have Lynch successfully complete a bomb downfield to the corner of the endzone, where a leaping Jack Butcher (2021, 6’5 200 lbs.) high pointed the football over a leaping DB for a last-second TD before the half, ultimately sealing the fate of Viator and positioning themselves with a 24-0 lead at halftime.

The Lions did get things going in the second half, as a fumble recovery by their defense with 10:52 left in the 3rd set up their best offensive drive of the night. Another Scales reception got Saint Viator into the redzone, where they scratched and crawled to get inside the five of the physical Caravan defense. That’s where senior 6’5, 200 lb. Lion pass-catcher  Joe Laterza Joe Laterza 6'5" | TE St. Viator | 2021 IL  made the play of the night for Viator and snagged a fade with just enough room to tap a toe in and snag his team six points and their first score of the game. Scales added a 2pt conversion to follow it up, and later in the 3rd Mt. Carmel answered with De Rosa’s second TD of the game. Later, backup Caravan QB Thanasi Chioros ran the ball in for another score, and the game finished 38-8 in favor of Mt. Carmel. 

MVPs

Mt. Carmel 

Justin Lynch Justin Lynch 6'1" | QB Mt. Carmel | 2021 IL  – QB. 6’1, 210 lbs. C/o 2021. Committed to Temple University. The heart and soul of the Caravan, Lynch is the little brother of Head Coach and former NIU legend  Jordan Tooles Jordan Tooles 6'0" | DL Harold L Richards | 2022 IL ” last=””] Lynch, and absolutely lives up to the name in his performance last night. Besides one errant pass, he threw a beautiful ball and hit receivers on a range of routes over the middle of the field, near the sidelines, and everywhere in between. He possesses great size, uses his legs and athleticism well and can scramble or take off and run, and was a calm and cool presence in the pocket. He was fun to watch and is poised for a great college career at Temple.

Enzo De Rosa – RB. 5’7, 175 lbs. C/o 2022. A shifty, thick, low to the ground rusher who had great burst and vision and was an efficient cutter who could defenders miss in a variety of ways. He was also tough at the point of contact for a smaller back and had good hands out of the backfield. He’s an intriguing prospect as a ball carrier.

Kenenna Odeluga Kenenna Odeluga 6'0" | ATH Mount Carmel | 2021 IL  – LB. 6’, 225 lbs. C/o 2021. Committed to Illinois. The heartbeat and tone-setter of the Caravan defense, Odeluga was a thick and powerful backer who was productive and agile as a blitzer or coverage LB who took good angles in his pursuit of the ball and tough and physical when taking on blocks or tackling. What really stood out to me was how he managed and called the defense from his MLB spot, as he set and adjusted the defense and had a high football IQ and saw the field well. I’m excited to see what he can do with the Illini.

JT Harris – CB. 5’10, 175 lbs. C/o 2022. A sticky and physical CB prospect, Harris recorded a beautiful INT, multiple PBUs, a handful of tackles, and played with a ton of energy last night in the Caravan secondary. He’s got great ball skills, is quick out of his breaks, and a willing tackler in run support. There’s a ton to like about Harris and his game.

Michael Dobrich – OC. 6’6, 240 lbs. C/o 2021. Committed to Truman State. Had one of the toughest assignments of the night as he was tasked with lining up play after play against Iowa DT commit Pittman, but showed he was more than up for the challenge and played himself a heckuva game last night. He set the OL at the LOS and was quick at adjusting the scheme when the play call would be switched, played low out of his stance and used his hands well, and had one of the best frames on an OC I’ve seen in a while. He’s an overall athletic senior OL prospect who will be a stud at Truman State.

Saint Viator 

Alex Konopka – CB. 5’10, 170 lbs. C/o 2022. Played the CB position with a competitive attitude and a ton of heart. He had good length and brought some good physicality at the LOS and throughout the route. Also a good tackler. Made some key PBUs to open the game and throughout the first and second halves.

Daniel Niesman – LB/WR. 5’11, 195 lbs. C/o 2021. Uncommitted. I was a big fan of Niesman, his versatility, and his aggressiveness. He was a beast at the point of contact, took on blocks with a ton of pop, and showed off his athleticism as a pass catcher and ball carrier on the Lions offense. I’m surprised someone has scooped up his commitment yet.

Joe Laterza Joe Laterza 6'5" | TE St. Viator | 2021 IL  – WR/TE. 6’5, 205 lbs. C/o 2021. Uncommitted. A dynamic pass catcher with a ton of length and vertical ability, Laterza made a very impressive grab in the corner of the endzone and also showed the speed to create some separation from CBs throughout the game. I wish the Lions offense could have got him involved more.

Carson Eggebraten Carson Eggebraten 6'0" | LB Saint Viator | 2022 IL  – LB. 6’, 220 lbs. C/o 2022. Thick, powerful, and not scared of contact in the slightest, Eggebraten was a solid blitzer who possesses a good mix of strength and speed and was a handful for OL to deal with at the point of contact. He also moved well in space for his size and brought an old-school swag and attitude to the position. He was fun to watch.

Jeremiah Pittman Jeremiah Pittman 6'2" | DL St. Viator | 2021 State IL  – DT. 6’2, 275 lbs. C/o 2021. Committed to Iowa. A dominant defensive lineman prospect who will be heading to the B1G next season, Pittman exploded out of his stance with a ton of pop and possessed some impressive strength in his chest, arms, and hands that he used well throughout the game to handle double teams and destroy one on one blocks when given the chance. He was a very physically imposing DT as well who is a good athlete for his size. You could tell that a lot of Carmel’s game plan was to try and contain the Iowa signee, which freed up the Viator LBs to try and make plays.

First Look Standouts

Michael Nix (Saint Viator) WR/P. C/o 2023. 5’10, 155 lbs. Had a boot of a leg on him and recorded some really impressive punts throughout the night, and also made a great catch late in the second half and showed himself to be a tough wideout with some good speed.

Aidan Duerig (Mt.Carmel)OL. C/o 2023. 6’4, 300 lbs. Massive, physical, and with a bruising punch, Duerig passed the eye test and flashed some great reps throughout the night.