Carmel stitches together a needed victory

Held together by what appeared to be cleverly placed duct tape, the back of Carmel Catholic running back Rondel Jamison's jersey looked in need of a seamstress.

And lots of thread.

"Kind of ripped it up a little bit," Jamison said. "Guys were grabbing on my jersey. It's a little loose."

Consider Jamison's jersey lucky No. 7, actually. After all, Carmel's luck finally changed Saturday night. After playing high-caliber opponents the first three weeks of the season, the Corsairs matched up with a more-beatable opponent, and they didn't botch their chance to get their first victory. Jamison's 151 rushing yards on 20 carries led the way in a 38-7 win over visiting Marian Catholic in East Suburban Catholic Conference action.

Dan Huiras and Shareif Bailey had interceptions for Carmel, which yielded only 7 first downs and allowed Marian Catholic's offense to penetrate the red zone just once - and that was against the Corsairs' backups.

"We just knew that if we won, it would really bring our morale up for the rest of the season," said Carmel defensive lineman Joe Belill, who had a second-quarter sack. "So I think we were all really focused."

Carmel (1-3, 1-1) had opened the season against Wisconsin-power Waukesha West, defending Class 4A state runner-up Phillips and Joliet Catholic, three teams that entered the weekend with a combined 9-1 record. After watching the tape of the Joliet Catholic game, Carmel coach Andy Bitto said his players actually graded pretty high. That might have given the Corsairs a much-needed boost of confidence.

"We played well (against Joliet Catholic)," Belill said of the 41-21 loss. "Just not well enough."

Led by Jamison and fellow running back LeSebron Duff (6 carries, 72 yards) and an offensive line featuring Brian Todoric, Nick Holaday, Joey Ptasienski, Birkan Cetinkaya, Sean Foster and tight end Noah Turner, Carmel rushed for 351 yards against Marian Catholic (1-3, 0-2). Corsairs quarterback Zavier Barnes, starting in place of Jeremy Strutzel (deep thigh bruise), gained 57 yards on the ground and also completed 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards.

"We threw the ball pretty well, we tackled well and we got some turnovers," Bitto said. "Granted, (Marian Catholic) is not the same quality team we played (the first three weeks), but it's hard to see how good you are when you're playing so many good teams. It gets depressing for these young guys."

Carmel scored on the game's opening possession, as Jamison's 7-yard run capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive that included a defensive pass-interference call. Barnes faked a pitch and scored from 4 yards out on the Corsairs' next possession, and the hosts were up 14-0 after one quarter. Matt Hellen's 22-yard field goal and Barnes' 15-yard TD strike to Turner (3 catches, 40 yards) had the Corsairs up 24-0 at halftime.

Carmel got second-half touchdown runs from Pete Bitto (4 yards) and Myles Tramill (7 yards).

Marian Catholic played its second game in a row without talented quarterback Cameron Thomas, who tore a ligament in his ankle in Week 2. The Spartans managed just 110 yards of total offense against Carmel. The visitors' only touchdown came late in the fourth quarter, when Michael Adeleke returned a fumble 40 yards into the end zone.

"We're very thin, but we still battled," Spartans coach Jerry Verde said. "(Carmel) is a good team. We wish them the best of luck."

After the game, Carmel's students stormed the field. When the Corsairs were done huddling in the north end zone, they hoisted their helmets high and cheered loudly.

Victory, at last.

"It was great just to come together as a team and see the Carmel community come together," Jamison said. "Those tough first three games prepared us for this game."

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