By Neel Thakkar
Though both teams have a long history of success and sport identical records (7-2 overall), Prospect’s first-round playoff game at Carmel High School, in Mundelein, is notable mostly for its contrasts.
While the Knights, who are seeded 10th, have put up spectacular numbers offensively this season, they have too-often squandered their advantage by giving up the same on the defensive side of the ball. On the other hand, Carmel, the seventh seed, owes its success to a tough defense that has allowed only one team to score above 20 points this year (In comparison, Prospect has allowed this 6 times). Overall, Carmel’s opponents have averaged just 14.5 points per game.
“I think [the Carmel defense] is going to try and attack us,” Prospect coach Brent Pearlman said, “which we’ve had a lot of teams do [to us].”
Tellingly, however, Pearlman believes that no team has successfully attacked and controlled the Knights’ offense in the past two years. The Knights also have experience playing tough defenses – Rolling Meadows, for example, was allowing an average of just 11 points per game before playing Prospect, who put up 38 points in a losing effort last week.
Additionally, the Knights will, for the first time this year, get the chance to play on artificial turf, which should allow the offense to play with even greater effectiveness – a “welcome change”, Pearlman says, from the rain and mud that have dogged the team for the past five weeks. The team’s offensive stars, like senior quarterback Miles Osei and junior wide receiver/running back Peter Bonahoom, he believes, will shine just as brightly this week.
What worries Pearlman more is his own, maddeningly inconsistent defense, which will have to contend with Carmel’s tricky triple-option offense this week. The Knights had success against the one team they played this season, Wheeling, that employed the triple-option, holding them to just 15 points. However, the Wildcats are admittedly of a lower caliber than Carmel’s Corsairs.
“[We’ve] got to play extremely disciplined,” he said of defending the triple-option, since the scheme tends to break down when the defense can stay organized.
“I think we’ve been close with the defense all year,” Pearlman said. “The frustrating part is that we haven’t got there.”
The key, he believes, is holding the line on critical downs. Prospect has had trouble with that lately, especially in their game against the Mustangs. In it, Rolling Meadows’ senior quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was relatively unscathed by the Knights’ pass rush, allowing him to convert one third or fourth down after another.
Whether that will happen again is debatable. The Carmel offense does not feature a player like Garoppolo, who is touted almost as highly as Prospect’s Osei. Their offense is largely focused on sophomore fullback Jordan Kos, who has rushed for 829 yards on 138 carries, an average of about six yards per carry, as well as senior quarterback Brian Serio, who has passed for 634 yards and rushed for another 304 yards.
In the end, Pearlman believes the game will be decided by the Knights’ defense.
“You need people to make big plays,” he said. “We’re obviously playing for our lives.”
Check back Saturday afternoon for complete coverage, including a recap and pictures, of Friday night’s game.