Fenwick's inaugural season in the Blue Division of the Catholic League is turning out to be bittersweet.
With a young and inexperienced squad this season, and with many players playing both sides of the ball, the Friars (3-4, 1-3) weren't expected to pose much of a threat to some of the best football teams in the state. With feisty and aggressive play all season long such a notion has been quelled, although it hasn't been apparent in the win column. The Friars fell to nine-time State champion Providence 24-21 on Sunday afternoon in heartbreaking fashion.
A 38-yard field goal with more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter thwarted a possible Fenwick upset. But it was a 75-yard TD pass with third and long that buckled the Friars' momentum and hushed a full-house at Oak Park Stadium for the school's Homecoming.
Fenwick jumped on the board first when quarterback Brien Rooney scored on a 10-yard run in the second quarter. The Friars missed the extra-point due to a bobbled snap.
The Celtics (4-3, 2-2) answered with a 75-yard kick-off return for a touchdown at 1:47 in the frame. The extra-point put Providence up 7-6.
The Celtics struck again two minutes later on a 12-yard TD pass from Brian Stroud to Mike Maher, who replaced injured starting running back Jordan Farrell (ankle).
Before intermission, Fenwick receiver Jack Finan took a shuffle pass from Rooney 44 yards for a touchdown. Rooney hit Vince Frangella for the 2-point conversion, evening things out 14-14 for the break.
The Friars took the lead in the third on a 12-play possession where Rooney was able to burrow in from a yard out. The extra-point by Pat Mulhern was good, and Fenwick was reeling with a 21-14 advantage going into the final quarter.
But on third down and 12 yards to go, Stroud unloaded a perfect spiral to Maher for a 75-yard touchdown that stunned Fenwick.
"That play really took the wind right out of our sails," said Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio of the bomb. "We had one of the best teams in the state on the ropes. We stop them there and the game may have ended differently."
Fenwick turned the ball over on downs and Providence capitalized, marching down to the Friars' 28-yard line, where Ian Prickett nailed the game-winning field goal.
"We just can't catch a break," added DiCanio, referring to his team losing to powerhouse St. Rita in similar fashion earlier in the year. St. Rita, currently ranked 18th, kicked a 47-yard field goal to seal Fenwick's fate 29-24 on Sept. 9. "I tell the guys we're just 12-15 plays away from being undefeated in the Blue Division."
Rooney converted 15-of-29 passes for 179 yards. The senior also ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Stroud was 10-of-19 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns for Providence, who has won three State titles in the last four years and last year was rated 13th in the nation as a football program by USA Today.
"We're a good team, I know that," said DiCanio. "We're just thin at special teams and we don't have the numbers other schools have right now, so we do with what we have. There's no fault anywhere with our team; sometimes we're just overmatched."
Playoff chances look slim for the Friars, who would have to take down Loyola this Saturday (1:30 p.m.) and No. 1-ranked Mt. Carmel on Oct. 22 just to be on the bubble.