The Mount Carmel quarterback led the charge out of the tunnel before the 8A championship Saturday night, answering questions about his sprained ankle by sprinting the length of the field.
When Glenbard North left Butkus’ center uncovered, it was evident his head was functioning at full capacity as well.
Butkus bolted 35 yards to the end zone in the second quarter to give Mount Carmel the lead for good, and the Caravan (13-1) came up with two goal-line stands in the third quarter of their 28-14 victory in the championship at Memorial Stadium.
Mount Carmel’s 11th state title is its first since 2002 — the Caravan’s longest championship drought since the Illinois High School Association playoffs began in 1974.
“It’s an insane feeling,” Butkus said. “I’ve dreamed about this day since I can remember. I always wanted to be a state champion. This is the greatest moment of my life.
“There was never a question (I would play). We just taped it up real well. I got treatment all week. The trainers did a great job healing my ankle, and I thank them.”
Butkus, the grand nephew of Bears legend Dick Butkus, gave a touchdown away before he scored one.
Justin Jackson, Glenbard North’s 2,500-yard rusher, didn’t find many running lanes, but he raced 76 yards after intercepting a Butkus pass to give the Panthers (12-2) a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes, 53 seconds left in the second quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, Mount Carmel’s Draco Smith broke loose for a 78-yard touchdown run to even the score.
After managing just 16 yards on his first five carries, Butkus crouched for a snap, saw nobody between himself and the end zone and got there with ease to make it 14-7 with 1:58 left in the half.
Mount Carmel’s defense did the rest. [more]