Sunday was a perfect day for Jack Onofrio to play his last high school game, and it would be against the best, a powerful Mt. Carmel team. The air was mild from a front that had moved up from St. Louis during the night and the smell of burning leaves drifted over Gately Stadium, located on Chicago’s south side, as the players stretched and ran pre-game warm up drills. The Mt. Carmel stands were full while it seemed that only family and friends came down from the north side for Quinlan’s final game.
Mt. Carmel proudly wore discarded uniforms from Notre Dame; Kelly green jerseys with gold pants and tan leather helmets. Unable to afford traveling white jerseys, Quinlan wore their home blue and red uniforms. During the warm ups, more than one Carmel player glanced over to the Quinlan side with looks of wonder that they were about to play a team with barely enough players to start the game.
The game began with Quinlan kicking off to Mt. Carmel. The ball went to Monte Cooper the great back who was a danger to score every time he touched the ball. Tall and wiry with well-defined muscles and a slim waist, he took the ball moving forward agilely and picked up speed as he cut and sliced through would be tacklers. But just as he turned to a higher gear, as he did so well, Jack Onofrio exploded in to the Carmel star from the side so savagely that the sound of breaking ribs brought a gasp from the crowd. Time was called immediately and the medical personnel helped their crumpled star to the sideline.
This set the tone for the game as the clear underdog Quinlan found life for their last game. The smaller Quinlan players hit with ferocity, giving the powerful Carmel team all it could handle. By half-time four more Carmel players were on the sidelines out for the day. But Quinlan lost players of their own, two knocked unconscious, and another suffering a broken arm. That left thirteen to gather their wits in the locker room during the break. Tommy Gleason was like his old self, moving from player to player to shake their hand and pat them on the back with encouragement. He was proud of these boys and he shed tears as they readied to return to the field for another half.
Quinlan finished the game with just enough to field an official team, eleven players. They didn’t beat Mt. Carmel, though they had a chance near the end when Onofrio hit the opposing fullback head on, causing him to cough up the ball. But Carmel recovered and was grateful to just run the clock out. After the game an unusual happening took place. The entire Mt. Carmel team went to midfield, surrounded the 16 opposing players, and sung the Bishop Quinlan alma mater along with the beaten team. Afterward, the players from both teams shook hands and talked with arms draped around shoulders while Tommy Gleason sat alone on the bench by his sideline and cried openly.