Aces win is all in the family

MT. CARMEL - Brothers Hunter and John Fuller kept two of the biggest defensive plays in Mt. Carmel’s 36-29 playoff win over Robinson in the family Saturday.

Sophomore Hunter scooped up a fumble and ran 22 yards for a touchdown seconds into the fourth quarter to complete a game-changing 14-point turnaround for the Golden Aces. Not to be outdone, senior John Fuller later clinched the IHSA Class 3A quarterfinal round victory with an interception.

“We’ve had some great plays by them all year,” said Mt. Carmel quarterback Pete Smith. “Hunter has been pretty clutch, and John made that play to save our season.”

Mt. Carmel coach Darren Peach, who had advanced his 8th team out of 14 to the quarterfinal round, also took note of the Fuller’s plays and lineage.

“Hunter’s scoop and run was huge for us, and John’s pick kind of sealed the deal,” Peach said. “A classmate of mine is probably pretty proud, in (father) Mike Fuller."

The family tree stretches back even further, to the player’s uncle John Rafferty, the starting quarterback on the Aces 1981 Class 3A state championship team.

Mt. Carmel (10-2), with the win, advances to the semifinal round Saturday against Williamsville (12-0), which defeated Sangamo Conference rival Auburn, 38-6. The kickoff has been set for 2 p.m. This will be the 9th trip to the semifinals for the Aces (the first since 2011), 4-4 all-time at that level.

Robinson gets to play someone different

MT. CARMEL – Mt. Carmel football coach Darren Peach figures Robinson is happy, if not relieved, to be finally rid of playoff rematches with conference opponents.

“I hate playing teams a second time,” said Peach, using the Aces own frequent past as an example. “Whether we beat Harrisburg or not (in the season opener), I usually don’t like playing them again.”

Robinson (10-1), a 1.p.m. Saturday visitor to Mt. Carmel (9-2) in the quarterfinal round of the IHSA Class 3A tournament, has yet to play outside the Little Illini Conference, a 10-team league where each regular-season game is a league game. The Maroons then had back-to-back playoff games against LIC opponents.

Aces favored by 9 over Robinson

[ prediction in parenthesis]
Class 3A
Sterling Newman at Byron, 1:00 [SN +23]
St.Joseph-Ogden at Wilmington, 5:00 [Wilm +14]
Auburn at Williamsville, 1:30 [Will +8]
Robinson at Mt. Carmel, 1:00 [MtC +9)

Aces figure out Nashville, advance in 3A tourney

NASHVILLE, Ill. – Mt. Carmel quarterback Pete Smith had heard it all before. With only a handful of starters back from last year and the loss of their top player to injury, the Golden Aces were headed for an off season.

Yet, here they are – alive and well and now in the quarterfinals of the IHSA Class 3A playoffs.

“We weren’t supposed to win conference. We weren’t supposed to get in the playoffs,” said Smith after the Aces rallied dramatically in the second half for a 44-30 second-round win over Nashville (8-3) Saturday.

Smith, who threw three touchdown passes in the game to hike his season total to 18, said it was that prove-them-wrong mentality that seemed to guide Mt. Carmel (9-2), which outscored Nashville 16-0 in the fourth quarter to post their 11th straight playoff win over a member of the Southern Illinois River to River Conference in a streak that dates to 2004.

“We figured we’re not supposed to be here anyway,” Smith said.

The win also guarantees another home game for Mt. Carmel. The Aces, seeded third in the southern quadrant of the 3A tournament, will host No. 1 seed Robinson (10-1) Saturday at a time to be announced by school officials Monday. The Maroons eliminated Little Illini Conference rival Marshall, 27-7, on Saturday.

Aces ready for trip to Nashville

MT. CARMEL – Mt. Carmel football coach Darren Peach has marveled from a distance at the turnaround in fortunes that third-year Nashville coach Tim Kuhn has fashioned.

“That is a big-time turnaround, almost Auburn-esque,” said Peach of the Hornets, 2-7 in Kuhn’s first two years followed by this year’s 8-2 record and return to the IHSA Class 3A playoffs. “They’ve got the culture turned around, which is difficult if you’ve been down the last couple of years.”

Peach gets to see the Hornets up close Saturday, in the second round of the 3A tournament.  Both teams will enter the 1 p.m. game with 8-2 records. The gates at Nashville’s stadium open at 11 a.m. and tickets cost $5.


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