By Brad Spencer
A banner greeting fans at Concordia University Chicago's football stadium for Fenwick High School's Homecoming game against Chicago Catholic League Blue Division standout Providence on Saturday afternoon read, "Welcome to Fenwick Nation."
That Nation was disrupted, or, more like overwhelmed, as the Friars' impressive undefeated run of six straight games came to a halt after a rain-soaked 21-13 loss to the Celtics (4-3). But there wasn't much to hang their heads over since the last time Fenwick began a season 6-0, in 1995, the team ended up in the state semifinals. Not only that, the Friars have a more important game against De La Salle and its sensational running back Mikale Wilbon (Vanderbilt recruit) on the docket this Friday, a match-up that will decide who gets the Catholic League White Division title.
"This a tough loss but I'm extremely proud of our guys," said second-year head coach Gene Nudo. "We had our chances to win this game and we went toe-to-toe with a Blue Division squad. That's all you can ask of this team."
The Friars' main troubled area came in the form of containing running back Dominic Lagone. The senior racked up over 100 yards rushing in the first half alone, including a 44-yard scamper with 3:16 left in the second quarter. It was Lagone who scored Providence's first touchdown on a 4-yard reception with 37.2 seconds left in the opening quarter. Neither team scored again until the fourth quarter.
The second half was chock-full of penalties and blunders on both sides of the ball, including a 15-yard personal foul on the Friars. At one point, Fenwick failed to get into the end zone from the 4-yard line. Amid a heavy rain deluge on fourth down, a pitch and throw play went awry when quarterback Gino Cavalieri fumbled the snap and was ruled to have his knee down on the recovery.
The Friars made up for the miscue by holding Providence to a three-and-out situation that eventually led to 2-yard touchdown plunge by Fenwick fullback Charlie Emmons. Michael Cahill's extra point knotted the game at 7-7 with 11:56 to go.
Robert Spillane, Fenwick's prolific running back, had a key defensive play on Providence's next possession that led to his only touchdown of the game. Spillane tackled Justin Hunniford for a 16-yard loss after the Celtics quarterback fumbled a snap. Spillane pounded through the Providence defense for four of the next five plays, ending with a 9-yard touchdown run. A botched snap on the extra-point had the Friars leading 13-7 with 8:24 left in the game.
But that lead didn't last long as Hunniford connected with Austin Garwood for a 43-yard pass-and-catch touchdown and defensive lineman Jeff Cesario intercepted Cavalieri on fourth down and returned it from 27 yards out.
"We played well overall," added Nudo. "I mean, we were leading at one point in the fourth quarter. The defense was very good today. But we missed some opportunities. So we'll learn from it and turn our attention to De La Salle."
Fenwick (6-1) travels to De La Salle on Friday with kick-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Friars will host their final home game of the regular season against St Laurence on Oct. 26 at Hoffman Stadium on the Morton West campus.