Two evenly matched teams butted heads for three quarters, and host Mt. Carmel and Glenbard North took a 14-all tie into the fourth quarter of their Class 7A second-round game on Nov. 9.
The Caravan just needed a nudge, and the momentum would shift.
In stepped Mt. Carmel senior defensive back Marty O’Brien.
Making an athletic diving catch on a tipped ball, O’Brien swooped in for an interception to start the fourth quarter, giving Mt. Carmel the ball at Glenbard North’s 26-yard line.
Two plays later, the Caravan scored on quarterback Justin Lynch’s rushing TD and never looked back, turning the decisive fourth quarter into a 34-14 victory.
O’Brien admitted to just being in the right place at the right time.
“The ball just came up, so I dove in and tried to catch it. We’ll take what we can get,” O’Brien said with a smile. “The offense capitalized on the good field position and gave us the momentum.”
One interception wasn’t enough for O’Brien (Christ the King); the senior added a second later in the fourth for an 86-yard TD return.
The pick six put Mt. Carmel up 34-14 in the closing minutes.
“That gives us momentum going forward as a team,” said O’Brien. “You make a big play, and everyone is hooting and hollering. It helps out the entire team, not just one side of the ball.”
O’Brien, Benjamin Perry (forced fumble), Jason Thompson (fumble recovery, sack) and Jalen Grant (sack) contributed to the defensive effort.
An aggressive second-half effort slowed down Glenbard North’s rushing attack and short-pass attack.
“We were more aggressive on the routes,” O’Brien said. “We knew if they were going to run a deep route, we had help over the top. We wanted to be more aggressive on those shorter routes.”
While the defense held down the Panthers, Lynch, junior Kenenna Odeluga and the offensive line did the rest.
Lynch, a junior, finished with a monster day of 126 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns (4, 8, 16 and 13 yards) on 16 carries. Odeluga added 21 carries for 120 yards.
Following O’Brien’s first interception, Lynch’s 16-yard smash through the Glenbard North defense put Mt. Carmel up 21-14. The Caravan outscored the Panthers 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
“The energy tilted the whole other way [after O’Brien’s interception],” Lynch said. “We boosted up from that and got it going. My teammates had my back, and I was feeling strong going through the defense. I was confident without a doubt.”
Lynch credited his offensive line of Gabe Krahn, Grant, Sam Jamison, Eddie Palomado and Sean Brady (St. John Fisher) for a strong showing up front.
Mt. Carmel Coach Jordan Lynch, Justin’s brother, said his QB continues to step up in his first year as a starter.
“Justin is only 11 starts into this season, so every game he plays, he gets more experience,” Coach Lynch said. “He’s looking more and more comfortable. He comes to the sidelines with confidence, and he has full confidence and trust in his teammates. He played like a senior today.”
Mt. Carmel (11-0) will host Phillips (9-1) on Nov. 16, at 1 p.m., in the quarterfinals.
According to Justin Lynch (St. Christina), to beat Phillips, the Caravan will need to put together a full game.
“We’re definitely confident as a team, but we need to start strong and finish strong,” Lynch said. “We started slow today, but we finished strong.”