MT. CARMEL, ILL. – All season long, Mt. Carmel has pointed to the next three games on its’ schedule as a decisive stretch that could make or break any playoff aspirations.

Now that that part of the schedule is at hand, the Golden Aces do feel better about their chances, especially since they have found their missing offense. Just in time.

After scoring just 38 points in the first three games of the season, the Aces have turned things around in dramatic fashion, scoring 110 points in the last two weeks.

“Sure, we’re starting to click a little bit on offense so you feel good about that,” said Mt. Carmel coach Michael Brewer after his team’s 61-20 Homecoming victory over Washington on Friday night at Riverview Stadium. “We feel like we have some things we can do now, and some different ways to attack.” 

Mt. Carmel (3-2, 1-2 in Big 8 Conference) plays at Jasper (2-4, 1-2) this Friday night. It’s not been a kind venue for the Aces, who won there for the first time in six tries in 2016.

After the Wildcats come league games against defending champion Vincennes Lincoln (at home on Oct. 5) and the current frontrunner, undefeated Boonville (there on Oct. 12). The regular-season closer is against non-conference Mt. Vernon, Ill. (at home on Oct. 19).

The Aces are still two wins shy of playoff eligibility. Five wins may or may not be enough, however. The Aces found themselves on the outside looking in after a 5-4 finish one year ago.

“We’re working hard, trying to get things better and fixed,” Brewer said. “We’ve got to keep at it, because we will be tested in the next three weeks. That’s for sure.”

Mt. Carmel was almost unstoppable with the ball against Washington (1-5, 0-4). They finished one yard shy of the 600-yard mark in total offense. That would have set a new school record, if not for one crazy playoff game back in 2013. Remember Greenville? The Aces put up 756 yards in a 71-70 loss.

Sophomore Kaleb Applebey threw five touchdowns passes, the most since Reece Metcalf tossed seven against – that’s right – Greenville. On the night, Applebey was 14-of-18 for 311 yards, with two scoring strikes each to Austin Rager and Trevor Peterson, along with one to sure-handed wide-out Satchel Patberg.

“Kaleb is throwing the ball better than he has all year,” Brewer said.

Though freshman Zeke Hadra tried to steal the show on the ground with an outstanding 11-carry, 129-yard night, junior Trevor Peterson (80 yards on nine carries) firmly established himself as the primary resource in the backfield.

“We were rotating a lot of guys, and (Peterson) started to separate himself a little bit. So he’s gotten a few more carries as we’ve gone along,” said Brewer, though quick to heap praise on the offensive engine up front.

“Credit the offensive line – we can’t do it without them. They make it go. If we’re running the ball well they’re playing well up front,” he said.

It’s the same offense the Aces have been running all season long. It only looks different because “we’re executing better,” according to Brewer. “We’ll keep going and get to a point where we master these things and can do them against anybody. That’s the hope.”

Not that there aren’t challenges. Washington came up big in total offense, too, with 406 yards, 245 of which came on the ground. Though running inside against the Aces all-senior front three was tough, the Hatchets found success once they got to the outside, an alleyway they used for two touchdown runs.

“Good job on the inside, but we have to get better on the perimeter and tackle down,” said Brewer, who added this about the Hatchets promising sophomore, Levin Laguerre, who finished game-high with 150 yards on 20 trips: “Laguerre is a heck of a player. We’re going to have our hand full with him the next couple of years.”

Mt. Carmel led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter, then added 20 more in the second frame to lead 48-14 at intermission. After Teagan Guard was named Homecoming Queen at halftime, the large crowd hung around until the clock ran continuously for the final 17:23 after the margin reached 41-points.

ACES ASIDES: The win was Mt. Carmel’s 10th in a row over the Hatchets… The end zones had a new design for the Homecoming game, and the base of the home seating section got a new paint job in time for the game as well… Julius Hardiman started at quarterback for Washington, after regular Jaydin Pendley suffered a knee injury last week vs. Mt. Vernon.