The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

Caravan ramble on to 15th state championship in program’s 100th season

The+Caravan+celebrate+on+the+field+of+Illinois+State+University%E2%80%99s+Hancock+Stadium+after+winning+the+7A+state+championship+game.+
Jerrold Berry (Alpha Photography)
The Caravan celebrate on the field of Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium after winning the 7A state championship game.

Jordan Lynch didn’t win a state championship as a player at Mount Carmel High School. 

He graduated from MC in 2009, and then attended and played for Northern Illinois University, putting together a memorable season for the Huskies in 2012. After his collegiate career, Lynch continued his success on the field by winning the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup for the Edmonton Eskimos in 2015. 

While Lynch had incredible collegiate and professional careers, the thought of adding a state title to the numerous that had been won in Mount Carmel history stayed in the back of his mind. Not only has the current Caravan head coach brought this thought to fruition, but he has now done it multiple times.

In the last five years, Coach Lynch has won three state championships with two of them being undefeated seasons. Most recently on November 25th, the Caravan capped off another incredible season, going 13-1 and bringing home Mount Carmel football’s 15th state championship. 

While the successful run can be looked at as dominant right now, nothing was for certain heading into the season. 

“Anytime you lose 18 or 19 starters it’s gonna be a little scary heading into the next season,” said Coach Lynch, regarding the talent from the previous season that graduated. “This program is built from the lower levels with the freshman and sophomores, so we knew we had some guys coming up.” 

One of those underclassmen Coach Lynch is referring to is junior Jack Elliott, who was on varsity last year as the punter and backup quarterback. Elliott got to follow starting quarterback Blainey Dowling, who’s incredible undefeated senior season saw him throw for just over 2,900 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2022. Elliott was determined to sustain and continue the powerhouse of an offense previous players like Dowling had established.

Jack Elliott drops back for a pass in the second round of the 7A playoffs.

“When you come to play at Mount Carmel, you play for championships, whether that’s the CCL Blue or state game,” said Elliott. “I think it’s great that my teammates and I get to carry on this tradition that we hear about from our coaches like Coach Anto [Mark Antonietti] and Coach Lynch.”

Elliott had an impressive junior season with 41 total touchdowns and just over 3,100 passing yards, the most of any Mount Carmel quarterback in a single season and the first to break 3,000 yards. The QB couldn’t have done it without his offensive teammates. One player who stands out is running back Darrion Dupree, who was just shy of 800 receiving yards. 

As a senior who committed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison prior to this season, Dupree had very high expectations, especially after his junior season was cut short just before the playoffs due to injury. 

The highly-recruited running back exceeded expectations and dominated right from the first game against East St. Louis. With 24 total touchdowns and 1,092 rushing yards off of 149 carries in 2023, Dupree couldn’t be stopped. 

Darrion Dupree makes his way to the end zone while being chased by a Batavia defender during the 7A semifinal game.

“I’ve played with a lot of great football players,” said Elliott. “He is the most talented player I’ve ever seen.”

While Dupree has received a lot of individual attention and accolades such as the 2023 Chicago Sun-Times High School Football Player of the Year, he was determined to be a team leader from the beginning of the season. 

“If we didn’t have this Mount Carmel brotherhood, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today,” said Dupree. “Going to practice, playing with the scout team, and working with the coaches got me ready for games and where I am today.”

While the Caravan’s run game dominated defenses, Elliott’s pass game shined during crucial moments as well. With the loss of previous year’s wide receivers Jimmy Deacy and Denny Furlong, seniors Darrion Gilliam and Kevin Gardner had the opportunity to step up and be crucial parts of the offense. 

“Leadership from Deacy, Furlong, and [wide receivers] Coach [Jack] Ramsey transitioned down to us,” said Gilliam. “We came a long way from going to open fields in the summer to building chemistry in the fall.”

Darrion Gilliam yells out to his teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Batavia Bulldogs in the 7A semifinal game.

Players like Dupree, Elliott, and Gilliam dominated at their respective positions, but it was the offensive line that held the team together. 

“Everybody gets criticized,” said senior offensive lineman Rahfeeq Katumbusi. “It’s about what you do after that criticism hits you. I’ve been telling my guys to just have a short memory and try to be consistent.”

Katumbusi, along with his linemates, had the tough task of blocking for two Division 1-bound running backs in Dupree and Alonzo Manning II, who is committed to the Naval Academy. 

“It felt rewarding,” said Katumbusi. “Sometimes I don’t even realize how good those guys are because I’m so focused on what my job is.”

Katumbusi was a focal point in the offense and really brought the team together as a captain and senior leader. 

Another senior that embraced the role of being a captain was inside linebacker Parker Startz, who had an incredible season with 91 total tackles and 4 sacks. Last season, Startz led the team with tackles as a junior just like how his fellow inside linebacker Matthew Mucha did this season with 92. 

“I had a lot of kids on defense following my lead,” said Startz. “I feel like I was able to take some younger guys under my wing, and we ended up being successful.”

Captains Rahfeeq Katumbusi and Parker Startz lead the team in singing the fight song after beating the Corsairs from Carmel Catholic in MC’s homecoming game.

Mount Carmel’s 15th state championship ties them with Joliet Catholic for the most in the state of Illinois. While the team is currently celebrating their victory with pep rallies and the designing of their rings, all eyes will be back on the Caravan football team next season. It’s safe to say the team is ready for some more action. Coach Lynch even referenced a 16th title in front of the whole school at the celebration in the Cacciatore Gym on November 29, and it sounds like his QB can feel it. 

“Next year you’re gonna see more out of me and the team,” said Elliott. “Our goal is to run it back.”

Story continues below advertisement
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Matthew Malloy ’25, Staff Writer
Matthew Malloy is a junior at Mount Carmel High School. He resides in the Southside of Chicago in the Beverly neighborhood and attended St. John Fisher Elementary School. Matt is currently a member of the student council, The Merchant, varsity golf team, varsity volleyball team, and the Caravan Media Group in which he is the play by play announcer for all home football and basketball games. As for academics, Matt is in the top 10 for the class of 2025. He first gained interest for journalism by watching ESPN’s College GameDay and reading The Beverly Review. His favorite sports commentators are Dick Vitale, Gus Johnson, Ray Clay, and Jim Nantz. As for favorite sports teams, Matt likes the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Manchester United F.C., Chicago Bears, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and his favorite golfers are John Daly, Bryson DeChambeau, and Collin Morikawa. His favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers and his favorite album is The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Matt’s favorite movies are Goodfellas and Asteroid City while The Office, Freaks and Geeks, and Friday Night Lights are his favorite TV shows. He and his cousins are continuing the tradition and legacy of the O’Connor family at Mount Carmel as he is the nephew of Dan O’Connor ‘95 and grandson of Frank O’Connor ‘61 and Kathy O’Connor, who works in the spirit store and is an avid supporter of Mount Carmel.