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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Michael O'Brien

No. 1 Mount Carmel reloads with Jack Elliott, healthy Darrion Dupree

Mount Carmel’s Jack Elliott throws a pass during football practice. (Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times)

Mount Carmel’s new starting quarterback already has experienced a moment in the spotlight.

Jack Elliott was the unlikely hero of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against Loyola last season, throwing a key 18-yard pass on a fake punt in the fourth quarter. It kept the Caravan’s game-winning drive alive. 

That version of Elliott was 5-10 and 180 pounds. Since then, he has grown three inches and added 20 pounds. Based on the leaderboards on the wall in the Caravan’s weight room, plenty of that is muscle. 

“When people see me on the field, they will be surprised,” Elliott said. “It hasn’t just been me. Everyone has bought into the process and was sacrificing every day, working out back in January.”

Elliott, now a junior, can reel off a list of his improvements over the summer: changing the pace of his throws, finding holes in zones and teaching his receivers where to sit. 

The Caravan enter the season as the top-ranked team in the Super 25. They went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team last year, finished 14-0 and won the Class 7A state title.

All eyes are on Elliott, who is stepping in to replace Blainey Dowling, who had a Player of the Year-caliber season and broke Mount Carmel’s passing records.

“Jack Elliott is our future,” Caravan coach Jordan Lynch said. “He’s the guy that is going to get this ship going. We’re excited about him. He’s a great athlete, a great kid and a great leader.”

Senior running back Darrion Dupree, Mount Carmel’s most highly regarded college prospect, missed a good chunk of last season because of injury, including the playoff run. 

Dupree averaged 10.9 yards per carry last season. He has committed to Wisconsin but recently picked up an offer from Alabama. 

“I’ve been talking to Alabama, but I’m still a Badger,” Dupree said. “I might take a visit to Alabama, though. My family wants to take another trip.”

Dupree’s opinion of Elliott is an eye-opener.

“I’m not trying to bring Blainey down, but Jack is better,” Dupree said. “He’s a great quarterback.”

Mount Carmel’s Parker Startz works a drill during football practice. (Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times)

Dupree is joined in the backfield by Navy recruit Alonzo Manning. Kent State recruit Darrion Gilliam, Kevin Gardner, Matt Markett and Maine South transfer Maurice Densmore are the top receivers. 

Senior linebacker Parker Startz, who had 81 tackles last season, leads the defense along with linemen Jamari Chaney and Tavon Rice. 

“You are only going to go as far as your senior leaders take you,” Lynch said. “Even with all the talent in the world, if there is no leadership, the ship is going to sink. The seniors are doing a great job. They love practice and lead by example. That’s a huge first step.”

Expectations for this season at Mount Carmel could not be higher. The Caravan open the season Saturday at ISU against East St. Louis, the only team in the state nationally ranked by ESPN. 

“A lot of people think we should be stressing out,” Startz said. “I have the same feeling I had last year. I know how much work we put in, and I know Jack can lead the offense.”

Mount Carmel schedule

Aug. 26 vs. East St. Louis at ISU

Sept. 1 vs. Morgan Park

Sept. 8 at Notre Dame

Sept. 15 vs. St. Rita

Sept. 22 vs. Carmel

Sept. 29 at Brother Rice

Oct. 6 at Fenwick

Oct. 13 vs. Providence

Oct. 21 at Loyola

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