OLNEY, ILL. – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Friday night, Mt. Carmel and Olney played a football game for the first time since the long-standing series was interrupted 16 years ago by the breakup of the North Egypt Conference.
Mt. Carmel seemed to pick up right where it left off, scoring early and often in a 49-23 non-conference victory, its’ 21st straight win over the Tigers.
No one from Mt. Carmel could have seen the onslaught coming, though. The Golden Aces offense had struggled mightily in the first three games of the season. The 42 points the visitors scored in the first half against the Tigers were four more than the total points scored in the previous six halves.
“It was good to see the offense start to click a little bit,” said Mt. Carmel coach Michael Brewer. “It’s what we have been hoping for.”
Mt. Carmel (2-2) put up a season-high 490 yards of total offense. The Aces scored 21 first-quarter points, and needed them all after falling behind twice in the frame. When they put up 21 more points in the second period, the game was out of reach by halftime.
“I think it speaks to the character of the kids to bounce back and compete all week and have some success,” Brewer said of his team snapping a two-game losing streak.
Mt. Carmel quarterback Kaleb Applebey, the 6-foot-5 sophomore who stepped into the starter’s role midway through his freshman season, had by far his best night of the season. In addition to throwing for 151 yards in the air, he ran the ball 13 times for 147 yards. He scored three times on the ground and threw for one more TD.
“Kaleb did a really nice job tonight,” Brewer said. “We had talked this week about him being efficient with the throws. We wanted there to be a high completion percentage, which meant we were being efficient and moving the football.”
Then, there was freshman Zeke Hadra. He left an indelible mark on the game with two big plays: a 40-yard TD run early in the second quarter, and later an interception on defense.
Brewer said the 5-10, 155-pound Hadra “is a very talented kid. We’ve known that the whole time but it’s a matter of figuring out how you work him in. We tried to start it off slow, but you see the kinds of things he can do. It gets harder and harder to get him off the field.”
Austin Rager was Applebey’s leading receiver, with six catches, including one five-yard haul for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Olney (2-2), now mired in a two-game rut after a 2-0 start, generated 288 yards of total offense. The Tigers jumped to a 3-0 lead when Yuri Carnazza kicked a 21-yard field goal in the game’s fourth minute, then countered again after Applebey’s 48-yard TD put the Aces ahead 7-3.
Quarterback Dakotah Brown, who threw for 180 yards, hit Sutton Dunn for a 65-yard score to put Olney up again, 10-7. But like the first Tiger lead, this one didn’t last long either. Applebey’s second score, from five yards out, put Mt. Carmel ahead to stay, 14-10, with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
Brewer said the win was important to keep playoff hopes alive. “If we fall to 1-3, with the rest of our schedule, we’re going to really struggle” to make the playoffs, he said. “There’s no room for error at that point. There’s still not much room for error on our schedule, so we’re going to have to really lock in here and get back to work.”
The Aces return to Big 8 Conference play on Friday night, in the Homecoming game against Washington (1-4, 0-3 in Big 8). The kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Riverview Stadium. The Hatchets are off a 61-28 loss to Mt. Vernon.
ACES ASIDES: With the win, Mt. Carmel now leads the all-time series, 51-22-3… There was an overflow crowd to see the game, buoyed by Military Appreciation Night and a special pre-game ceremony honoring the 1982 Olney team, the last to beat Mt. Carmel… Freshman Luke Laws started fir the third time at center for the Aces.