Bears

Mount Carmel staves off rally, reaches title game

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Mount Carmel staves off rally, reaches title game

Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
11:01 PM

By Mike Clark
YourSeason.com

Vontrell Williams has heard the whispers about a Mount Carmel program that hasn't won a state title since 2002 and hasn't played in a state championship game since 2006.

He and his Caravan teammates answered the doubters on Saturday afternoon by beating Homewood-Flossmoor 28-21 in a Class 8A semifinal at Gately Stadium.

Mount Carmel (11-2) advanced to its 14th title game in 25 seasons under coach Frank Lenti and will play Maine South (11-2) in the 8A final next Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

"We're proving Mount Carmel hasn't lost a step," said Williams, a junior defensive lineman who forced an H-F fumble in the closing seconds to help seal the win. "Like coach Frank Lenti always says, 'It's not our job to drop the tradition, it's our job to enhance the tradition."

The Caravan did that by limiting the damage done by H-F running back Malik Norman, who had rushed for 1,987 yards and 31 touchdowns before Saturday. He finished with 47 yards and one TD on 23 carries.

"Malik is a great back," said Mount Carmel's Michael Banks, a youth football teammate of Norman. "We've done a pretty good job on the run all year. If we wanted to win, we were going to have to contain Malik. Thank God we did it."

Banks ran for a game-high 112 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a one-yard plunge with 5:06 left.

"I heard coach Dave Lenti, Mount Carmel's defensive coordinator say on the sidelines, 'This drive is the game' and it really was," Banks said. "If we didn't score on that drive, who knows what would have happened?"

H-F's next possession ended with Derrick Bryant's sack of H-F quarterback Tim Williams on fourth down with 2:32 left. The Vikings (10-3) got the ball back on a fumble recovery with 1:42 remaining, but Williams forced a Williams fumble two plays later and Bryant recovered. The Caravan then ran out the clock.

"The defense played great today when it had to," Frank Lenti said, "The offense played just well enough to win when it had to."

Chris Sujka (17 carries, 51 yards) ran 13 yards for Mount Carmel's first touchdown with 7:10 left in the first quarter. But H-F's Arnold Duncan ran the kickoff back 95 yards for a 7-7 tie.

Banks' 49-yard touchdown dash down the right sideline put the Caravan back ahead 14-7 with 5:06 left in the first. Sujka's one-yard sneak pushed Mount Carmel's lead to 21-7 midway through the second quarter.

H-F tied it with two third-quarter touchdowns. Norman had a nine-yard scoring run out of the Wildcat formation and Williams (14 of 20, 181 yards) hit Sean Jones with a 29-yard TD pass.

"We knew they were going to try to stop No. 5 Norman," H-F coach Craig Buzea said. "We had other options. Tim hasn't thrown for 2,000 yards for nothing. ... Basically, we came up one play short."

Under Center Podcast: Takeaways from Week 1 of OTAs

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Takeaways from Week 1 of OTAs

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis dive into a few interesting developments from OTAs at Halas Hall on Wednesday, including Bradley Sowell’s position change (0:30) and Leonard Floyd’s upside (5:30). Plus, hear from Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix about how the ‘Bama safety pair came to be re-united in Chicago (12:30). 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

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Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

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USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall.