MOUNT CARMEL – In Mt. Carmel High School head football coach Darren Peach’s way of thinking, the unofficial record his Golden Aces set in 2015 probably cost them a shot at a winning season and their 10th consecutive playoff appearance:

Most injuries in a season.

As the Aces infirmary bulged and the personnel losses mounted, the veteran Peach and his staff first tweaked the offense, then eventually shelved the entire defensive scheme to fit who was left standing. As it was, the Aces were still only one play – a last-second loss to Princeton would be first to consider but there were others – away from a 5-4 finish and admittance to the IHSA post-season party for the 32nd time in 33 years.

“If we had all of our bullets in our gun, we would have been playing yesterday,” said Peach Sunday at the team’s post-season awards program at Parkview Christian Church, a reference to the playoff semifinals held one day earlier, the same round the Aces found themselves in last year (a 42-8 loss at Williamsville that concluded a 10-3 season).


“Football is a game that teaches boys to become men. This season was a microcosm of life. Life is difficult and throws you a lot of curve balls.”

Peach, who will step onto the field in 2016 as the longest-tenured coach in school history (surpassing Larry Davis, coach for 15 years from 1968-82), still found time to laud his team for almost overcoming long odds after a 1-3 start.

“There wasn’t a day when I thought ‘Man, I’ve got to go to practice today,”’ Peach said. “You guys made it all relevant. You had a lot of bad deals but you were just fine.”

Peach introduced each player individually, and spoke briefly about each. There were a total of nine seniors on the roster of players, along with 13 juniors, 10 sophomores and 20 freshman.

There were four major awards handed out. Junior running back Trevor Kennard, who barring injury should break Brad Haywood’s career rushing record early in the ’16 campaign (he will begin play only 425 yards shy of Haywood’s record of 3,746 yards set between 1996-99), was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player. Senior Justin Spear, who led the team in receiving with 41 catches for 725 yards, was named the Offensive Player of the Year.  And, senior Andrew Wise, who finished second on the team in tackles with 72 (junior Sampson Margelin led with 106), was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Year, though he was a stalwart on both front lines.

Quarterback Pete Smith, who threw for 2,078 yards for a two-year career total of 4,081 yards (No. 2 on the all-time list behind the 5,519 yards of Reece Metcalf from 2011-2013), received the program’s penultimate award, the Golden Helmut Award. Ironically, it was his father, Aces assistant coach Kevin Smith who presented the award as he always has – with this twist of fate providing extra emotion for the first father-son combo to win the award. The elder Smith, center on the 1981 Class 3A state championship team, won the award in 1982.

A total of 22 returnees will form the nucleus of the 2016 season ahead. “I firmly believe the sky is the limit” for these players," Peach said.

Peach thanked those who work tirelessly in support of the program. “A lot of people are doing special things to keep Mt. Carmel football special,” he said. Moms For Football, one of the groups mentioned, presented a separate award to Tamara Berberich for her work coordinating various projects.


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