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By Brad Spencer
With gusty winds causing havoc for anything in the air on Saturday afternoon at Morton West Stadium, the Fenwick football team was forced to keep things on the ground. The result was over 260 total rushing yards and a 17-7 victory over Providence, a team Fenwick had never beaten before in the football program's history.
While Fenwick's offensive line, led by Matt Doherty, Steven Sreniawski, Jack Dunlap and Niall Mulcahy, bulldozed its way past the Celtics, the defense forced Providence to take to the air. The Friars snagged six interceptions, three of which were by junior defensive back Joe Kelly.
"I could not be more proud of the offensive line and the rest of the guys," said Fenwick head coach Joe DiCanio, whose team did most of its damage in the second half after leading just 3-0 at halftime. "Providence is a good team, and for us to push them around like that shows we're not to be taken lightly."
Celtics starting quarterback Joe Houlihan left the game at the end of the first quarter with a leg injury, and from then on the Friars zeroed in on backup QB Chris Salazar. Kelly grabbed two passes from Salazar in the second quarter alone, while Jack Stibich and Quinn Murphy caught two others in the same frame.
Stibich also racked up 102 yards rushing, including a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put his team up 10-0. Zach Vergara's interception helped set up a 35-yard touchdown run by Fenwick quarterback Pat Hart, who finished with 73 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The North to South wind was so menacing that in the fourth quarter the Friars punted for minus two yards.
Providence came within 10 after a three-yard TD run by Dan Potempa with a little over six minutes left in the game, but Fenwick's final forced turnover – an interception by Kelly – eventually sealed the win for the Friars. Fenwick forced seven turnovers in all.
"The offensive line really gave the defense momentum," said DiCanio. "We did an outstanding job on both sides of the ball."
The loss for Providence marked the first time the team will not make the playoffs in 19 years. The win marked the first victory over a Catholic League Blue Division opponent in two years for the Friars, who are still holding out hope to make the playoffs this season.
"It doesn't get any easier for us next week, that's for sure," said DiCanio, referring to Fenwick's matchup at Loyola Academy on Saturday, a game that will be televised on WEtv, a cable channel.