Starting at running back and linebacker, Kenenna Odeluga has been a two-way terror for the Mt. Carmel football team all season.
However, Odeluga isn’t picky; he doesn’t care which side of the ball he’s on. He just wants to contribute to a victory.
Rushing for 2 touchdowns and forcing a fumble on defense, Odeluga’s huge effort helped Mt. Carmel take down host Marist 21-14 on Oct. 4 in a Chicago Catholic League (CCL)/East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC)-Blue game.
“I like making a difference on the field and helping my team, doing anything I can to make sure we come out with that win,” Odeluga said. “It only takes a play to stop a whole drive. Make that play, and it can make the difference and shift the momentum of the game.”
Odeluga finished with 12 carries for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns (3 and 4 yards) as Mt. Carmel went up 14-7 at halftime.
The junior’s most timely contribution came on the other side of the ball as he blitzed into the Marist backfield on a third-and-long play in the fourth quarter. Pursuing quarterback Dontrell Jackson, Odeluga pulled Jackson down, stripping the ball in the process.
Senior lineman Mario Davis swooped in, picking up the ball and rumbling 20 yards for the score as the Caravan went up 21-7 with 7:19 left in the game.
“I was going through my progression and trying to get to the QB,” Davis said. “I couldn’t get there, but I saw Kenenna off the edge flying in. The ball bounced just perfectly my way. I picked it up, scooped and score. I was getting into the end zone no matter what.”
Making his impact felt all over the field, Odeluga continued to adjust to the workload. He played running back on the freshmen team but was solely on defense during his varsity debut as a sophomore.
“I try and be a balanced runner where I can do everything,” Odeluga said. “I’m learning and learning. It’s my first varsity year playing running back, so I’m still getting back to it and trying to find my groove.”
Marty O’Brien (Christ the King) had a monster day on defense with an interception and a fumble recovery. Lance Swain (forced fumble), Michael Foggie (sack) and Jalen Grant (sack) also provided key contributions.
Mt. Carmel has allowed just 55 points in 6 games (9.1 points per game).
“It’s our communication,” Davis said. “I know I have my brothers’ back, and I know they have mine. That’s what we thrive on. That’s what makes the defense click.”
Junior QB Justin Lynch (St. Christina) rushed for 63 yards and threw for 39 yards for the Caravan (6-0, 2-0).
For Marist, Jackson finished 17 for 30 in passing for 168 yards, a TD and an interception. The sophomore signal-caller also rushed for 33 yards.
The RedHawks were undone by 3 turnovers, an interception and 2 fumbles.
“It was little stuff. We can clean it up, and I can be better with my reads,” Jackson said. “I’ll take that on me. For the most part, it’s those little things that we need to work on.”
Down 2 touchdowns in the final minute, Jackson stayed alive as the pocket crumbled around him, finally firing a pass to Carnell Tate in the end zone for a 41-yard strike. Tate went up in triple coverage and reeled in the catch as Marist drew to within a touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.
The RedHawks were unable to recover an onside kick on the following play, sealing the win for the Caravan.
However, Jackson saw positives as a young offense continued to jell, the sophomore leading a handful of extended drives down the field.
“We saw a lot of progress from the offense. We were focused, played hard and gave it everything we’ve got, and we just need to pull through and make the plays when we need to. I try to handle it like I do practice every day, handle it professionally, practice and prepare.”
Junior Amari Watkins (Vanderpoel) carried the ball 18 times for 125 yards, a TD and a fumble. Brendan Barry (4 catches, 51 yards) and A.J. Markett (6 catches, 45 yards) also chipped in.
With a 3-3 record (0-2 in the CCL/ESCC-Blue), Marist now needs 2 more wins to qualify for the playoffs with Nazareth, St. Patrick and Loyola remaining on the schedule.
“We’ve got to grind. We want 3 wins, but we need 2,” Markett said. “We’ll grind every single day and bring the energy and effort, and we’ll be good.”