Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010
By Pat DiSabato
St. Rita coach Todd Kuska has waited all season for his team to produce a complete 48 minutes of solid football. The wait is over.
Jahwon Akui rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and the Mustang defense stuffed an explosive Carmel offense en route to a dominant 21-0 victory in a Class 7A quarterfinal Saturday night in Chicago. St. Rita advances to take on Lake Zurich, a 17-14 winner over Simeon, next weekend.
Photos: Carmel vs. St. Rita
"We talked about it before the game how we need to put together 48 minutes of good football," said Kuska, whose Mustangs improved to 11-1. "We feel like we haven't done that yet. But tonight, especially on defense and special teams, we really played well."
It would be an insult to refer to the Mustangs performance on defense any other than dominant.
Carmel had averaged 38 points and approximately 340 yards of offense entering the contest. On this night, it would total just 171 yards. It was the first time Carmel's high-powered offense had been blanked in nine years.
The Mustangs frontline of Ben Tomasek, Pat O'Connor, Joe Filomeno and Charlie Buche were relentless. Carmel quarterback Brian Serio registered a team-high 94 yards rushing, but he had to fight for every single one of them.
Linebackers Ryan McGowan, Matt Mullen and Will McNamara were outstanding as well.
"They just tore us up defensively," admitted Carmel coach Andy Bitto, whose team capped off its season at 10-2. "They were just pushing us backwards. We haven't struggled like that in a long time. Hats off to their defense."
Neither team could establish much offense in the first quarter.
That would change, at least for the Mustangs, in the second period.
St. Rita mixed up its attack during a 13-play, 79-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Brandon Johnson (6 of 14, 115 yards) completed a pair of clutch passes, both to Bobby Gallagher that covered 7 and 14 yards. That forced Carmel, which had loaded up to eight players in the box, to honor the Mustangs ability to pass.
Akui eventually capped off the drive, leaping in from one yard for a 7-0 lead at 7:02 of the second quarter. Chris Donahue added the first of his three extra point kicks.
"It's not that we can't pass," Kuska said. "We pass when we have to or when we want to."
When St. Rita tacked on another score, with Johnson hitting a wide-open Mitch Saffold from 29 yards out at 11:30 of the fourth quarter, the lead stretched to 14-0.
Carmel was forced to pass the football more often, something it prefers not to do.
Serio attempted one pass in the first half and finished 4 of 10 for 13 yards.
"We don't pass very much and most of the time, we don't have to," Bitto said. "We average like 340 yards of offense and we didn't even come close to that. They just totally outplayed us."
Akui applied the icing on the cake with a 26-yard TD run with 3:42 to go.
"I'm just happy to be practicing still," said Kuska, when asked about next week's opponent. "We've got a lot of work to do."
Travis Starks added 35 yards of rushing on six carries for St. Rita.