MUNDELEIN — Holding on to a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter Friday, the Carmel football team’s defense was on its heels, backed up in its own red zone.
The St. Viator quarterback hurried the offense to the line, took the snap from the shotgun and completed a quick pass over the middle. His receiver was uncovered and headed for the end zone. He was met by a Carmel defensive back — senior Lukas Porter — inside the 5-yard line, but it appeared St. Viator would have first-and-goal, if not a touchdown.
Instead, Porter held the ball carrier up long enough for senior safety Mark Amick to knock the ball out and recover it at the 5-yard line.
“I was able to get my fist on it and punch it out,” Amick said. “It was definitely a big change (of momentum) in the game.”
St. Viator was in scoring position again in the third quarter, down 14-7. Running back Joey McIntyre had just rushed for 16 yards on a fourth-and-three to reach the Carmel 4-yard line.
McIntyre got the call again and plunged into the pile. But before he could reach the end zone, the ball was knocked out, this time by senior linebacker Fermin Santana.
“We always hear ‘dip and rip’ in practice,” Santana said. “We’re always looking to knock the football out.”
The Corsairs forced four turnovers on the night, including three inside the 5-yard line — Santana intercepted a pass near the goal line in the fourth quarter. They forced another fumble that St. Viator was able to recover and knocked the ball out two more times, though the ball carrier was called down in each instance.
“We really shot ourselves in the foot,” said St. Viator coach Brandon New. “We made a lot of mistakes.
All of the turnovers aren’t happening by accident, though. The Carmel coaching staff has put an emphasis on taking the ball away all season.
“We work on (forcing turnovers) a lot,” Amick said. “We have individual drills and work on technique for getting it out.
“During team segments, we need to force five turnovers against our offense or else we run.”
Although Carmel fell 17-14 against St. Viator, the takeaways were what kept the Corsairs in the game. And as Carmel fights to make the playoffs, its defense will have to continue swarming to the ball.
“We need to get some more pressure on the quarterback and just be relentless in getting everyone to the ball and punching it out,” Amick said. “And we have the talent on defense to do that, without a doubt.”
Originally posted on 09/26/13.
By Jakub Rudnik