Mt. Carmel 27
The Fenwick football team can now engage in a collective swipe of the brow and a deep sigh as a gesture of relief. The regular season is over.
Fenwick's inaugural season in the Catholic League Blue Division came to an end at Morton West High School on Saturday when the Friars fell 27-10 to powerhouse Mt. Carmel. It was a challenging season for the young team, which now will try and make its way to Soldier Field for the Prep Bowl when they take on De La Salle on Saturday (Noon) again at Morton West.
"I've been coaching a long time and this season's schedule was the most challenging I've ever been involved with," said Fenwick head coach Joe DiCanio, who has been coaching for 25 years, eight as a head coach. "The thing is I and I know this team wouldn't change the schedule we had this season for anything. We played nine games against some of the state's best high school football teams and we were legitimately in eight of them."
Fenwick, which was drastically mismatched in numbers to Blue Division opponents throughout the year, closes out the regular season 3-6, but DiCanio isn't about to call it a wash.
"Fenwick proved this year that it isn't afraid to play anybody," he said. "The kids answered the challenge."
The Friars took on one of Illinois' best teams in the Caravan, holding their own until the second half. Fenwick trailed just 7-3 at halftime thanks to a 35-yard field goal by Pat Mulhern in the second quarter. But Mt. Carmel's bruising option offense struck hard in the second half. Dominic Sulo (13 carries, 182 yards) scampered 73 yards for his second touchdown of the game on the opening play of the second half. Larry Dortch added a 6-yard rushing touchdown for Mt. Carmel and Carter Kopach converted a touchdown pass to Ron Newcomb for five yards to seal the win.
Fenwick scored again late in the fourth quarter when Brien Rooney hit Chris Rosenmeyer for five yards but by then the game was long over.
DiCanio said he's excited about the Prep Bowl playoffs, but is already looking ahead to next year.
"Our goal is to increase the varsity numbers without jeopardizing academics," he said. Fenwick had a total of 41 players on varsity this season, while its opponents posted an average of 86 players. "It's a process. Last year was a honeymoon. Fenwick football is a process and the foundation has to be built, and people have to understand that. When we get it there it's going to be special."
The Friars, who will return such key players as Rooney, Jack Finan, Dan Mega, Dan Walsh, Austin Gordon and Kendrick Crump next season, finished first in the White Division of the Catholic League last year and went as far as the 5A State quarterfinals.
"We're going to get to where we need to be eventually," insisted DiCanio. "It's just going to take some time."