There’s not a long history of games between the finalists in the Class 7A state championship.
Batavia and Mount Carmel have played just twice, but the most recent contest, a 2021 second-round contest, still reverberates specifically inside of the Batavia program.
A late questionable penalty called on then top-seeded Batavia ultimately led to Mount Carmel escaping with a 16-14 win.
“This was a very emotional game for our program and our kids,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “I’ve pretty much heard about it every day for a whole year. If anything, I’ll be glad we are done talking about it.”
Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 7A title game.
Mount Carmel (13-0)
Head coach: Jordan Lynch (50-8, 5th year)
Last state title game appearance: 2019, defeated Nazareth, 37-13
Path to state
• defeated Buffalo Grove, 49-3
• defeated Downers Grove North, 24-6
• defeated Brother Rice, 48-12
• defeated St. Rita, 20-9
Blainey Dowling, QB: Dowling is a consistent playmaker that doesn’t mind taking a risk or two to help his team advance down the field. Even when the weather isn’t very cooperative, Dowling’s arm is clearly strong enough to still be utilized in the playmaking arena.
Damarion Arrington, LB: Arrington has a knack for making big plays and tends to make them at pivotal times. He’s an impact player on a unit that has allowed 10 points or less in nine of its games this season.
Dennis Furlong, WR: If an opponent can somehow limit the number of times Furlong gets his hands on the ball good things can happen for that fortunate defense. But not many have been successful in doing so. Furlong is an impact player with a way about getting himself chances.
• The Caravan have been without their team’s leading rusher, Darrion Dupree, since the beginning of the playoffs. An injury suffered in the Week 9 victory over Loyola sidelined him.
• Mount Carmel opponents have managed to score in double digits just four times out of the Caravan’s first 13 games.
• The Caravan currently have 126 postseason victories, the highest total in state history.
The expectation coming into the season was that the very experienced Caravan would end up exactly where they are now, playing for a state championship. They’ve wore that favorite label and the target that comes with that rather well and have had very few instances where it appears they might be in danger of losing.
Head coach: Dennis Piron (118-21, 12 years)
Last state title game appearance: 2017, defeated Lake Zurich 21-14
Path to state
• defeated Rockford Guilford, 42-0
• defeated Hersey, 19-13
• defeated Yorkville, 17-6
• defeated Lake Zurich, 24-7
Ryan Whitwell, RB: Whitwell takes on a heavy workload for the Bulldogs. When they need tough yards Whitwell might not be the only option but he’s a very trusted one nonetheless. He’s accounted for over 200 carries this season and will happily shoulder as heavy of a load that is asked of him.
Tyler Jansey, LB: The Wisconsin-bound Jansey is a wrecking ball on defense and down the stretch has gotten the opportunity to use his skill set on offense. On either side of the ball, Jansey tends to make his presence felt and has recorded 120 tackles, which includes 16 tackles for loss.
Charlie Whelpley, RB: Whelpley has emerged of something as a utility knife on offense, contributing as both a valued piece in the running game and the team’s leading receiver with 44 receptions.
• Batavia lost three games in the regular season, but those opponents combined for a 32-4 record and one of those losses came to a team playing in the Class 8A championship game (Lincoln-Way East).
• Defense has been a real constant for Batavia. The Bulldogs have given up just 76 first half points all season (5.8 points per game) and 73 in the second half of contests (5.6 ppg).
• Batavia carries a plus-10 turnover ratio into the title game.
Batavia has a knack for deep advancement in the postseason, but Mount Carmel has been a difficult hurdle to clear. The controversial call in the 2021 second round that allowed the Caravan to advance still sticks in the Bulldogs’ craw, but in order to get the program its third state championship since 2013, Batavia needs to focus on the Mount Carmel team in front of it rather than trying to avenge the misfortune that’s in the past.