OLNEY -- 1982, the last time Richland County High School has defeated Mount Carmel in football. The host Tigers honored the 1982 football team prior to kickoff as they were prepared to take on history. The only problem, the traveling Aces weren't intimidated and responded well to the adversity of their 1-2 start, as they defeated RCHS 49-23 on Friday night in Olney.
The Mount Carmel offense which had struggled entering the contest had a complete turnaround, as the Aces offense shredded the Tigers' defense.
"It was good to see the offense to click a little there which is what you're hoping for," coach Michael Brewer said. "It feels really good to work hard, put in the work and see some fruit from the labor. Very proud of the kids and happy to be back at 2-2."
Led by sophomore quarterback Kaleb Applebey, the Aces rolled their way to a 42-10 halftime lead, not letting anything in their way, not even officials -- as Applebey capped his first touchdown game of the game by breaking a few tackles and laying out an official enroute to a 47-yard touchdown to take a 7-3 lead. Applebey came back and apologized to the official who was in the way on the long run, but that play would ultimately sum up the first half -- nothing could hold the Aces or Applebey from the end zone.
"Kaleb did a really, really nice job tonight," coach Brewer spoke of Applebey and his offensive line. "We kind of talked about it this week about being efficient with throws. When we left here tonight we wanted it to be a high completion percentage. So we were efficient moving the football, great job by Kaleb and he doesn't take off running like that without the offensive line so credit the offensive line, great week of work for them."
It didn't look as if the Aces would be in control following Applebey's first touchdown, however, as the Tigers immediately responded with a 65-yard touchdown due to some broken coverage down the field. They took a 10-7 lead, but that wouldn't last long. Freshman Zeke Hadra picked up 53 of his 115 rushing yards on a rush to set up another Applebey rushing touchdown, this one a 5-yarder, giving the Aces a 14-10 lead.
The following possession saw the Mt. Carmel defense rise to the occasion, forcing a quick Olney three-and-out and putting the ball right back into Applebey's hands. Applebey responded as well, breaking a 37-yard rush which would set up junior Trevor Peterson to cap it off with a touchdown and increase the lead to 21-10 nearing the end of the first quarter.
Much of the Aces' momentum continued in the second quarter, as the broke the game wide open. The offense got the ball right back after a quick Tigers punt and the offense stayed in rhythm. Starting at their own 32-yard line, the Aces needed just three plays to punch it in, capitalized by a burst from Hadra down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown rush to set the score at 28-10.
"Zeke's just a very talented kid," Brewer spoke of Hadra. "We've known that the whole time, it's just a matter of taking a kid that's a freshman who needs to grow some more and stuff and try to figure out how to work him in. How many touches do you give him? We tried to start it off slow and you just see the things he can do and the plays he can make. It just gets harder and harder to keep him off the field."
Following his touchdown Hadra came up big on the defensive side of the ball as well, forcing the Tigers into an interception. Applebey wouldn't let the turnover be wasted, as he darted a 35-yard pass to Peterson and then capped off the drive with a 11-yard touchdown rush with still 5:01 to go in the second quarter and raising the score to 36-10 after senior Austin Rager rushed in a two-point conversion.
With the half winding down the Aces put the exclamation point on, posting another touchdown with 24 seconds remaining, increasing the lead to 42-10 and putting the game well out of reach.
Applebey and Hadra combined for 262 rushing yards on just 20 carries -- an average of 13.1 yards per carry. Applebey was efficient through the air as well, as he was 13-18 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown on just one interception. As a team, the Aces combined for 490 yards of total offense -- easily a season-high for coach Brewer's group.
The win proved critical for a Mount Carmel team who seeks to return to the playoffs after missing it last season. Had the Aces lost this game, it could have proved to be a possibly insurmountable path.
"Trying to make sure you get qualified for the playoffs, I think if you fall to 1-3 with the rest of our schedule, you're in a real hole," coach Brewer said. "There's no room for error at that point. There's still not much room for error on our schedule so we're going to have to really lock in and get back to work on Monday."
Now, Mount Carmel turns its attention to Big Eight foe Washington. It'll be the second home game of the year for the Aces and is also the homecoming game. The two teams have faced two common opponents, Mount Vernon, Ind. and Princeton. The Hatchets, who will enter the contest 1-4, lost to Princeton 36-14 and fell to Mt. Vernon 61-28. A possible huge momentum boost for the Aces as they look to continue their quest for a playoff berth.