Fenwick football stunned again in playoffs

Friars lose big lead, game to Wheaton North; endure postseason heartbreak for second straight season

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Sparked by the potent passing combination of quarterback Gino Cavalieri and tight end Ryan Smith, Fenwick raced out to a 31-6 lead against Wheaton North on Saturday night at Elmhurst College. Shockingly, the Falcons responded with 26 unanswered points to pull off an unforgettable 32-31 win in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs.

The first half was essentially all Friars, or more specifically all Cavalieri to Smith, as the senior duo combined for three touchdowns. Cavalieri (12-for-24, 156 yards) threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Smith (four catches, 102 yards) putting Fenwick up 7-0 at the 4:05 mark of the first quarter. The pair struck twice more for scores over the final six minutes of the second quarter on passing plays of 11 yards and 62 yards. The 62-yard touchdown play pushed the Friars' lead to 31-6 lead.

Backing the Cavalieri to Smith show, senior running back Robert Spillane scored a touchdown on a 26-yard run and Michael Cahill kicked a 17-yard field goal as the Friars controlled the action throughout the opening 24 minutes of play. The Western Michigan-bound Spillane rushed for 245 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries and had three catches for 24 yards on the night.

Defensively, safety Richard Schoen had four tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception, while defensive backs Keshaun Smith (seven tackles, interception) and Aaron Garland (five tackles, four pass deflections) also contributed in the secondary. Linebacker Jack Rafferty recorded a team-high ten tackles.

"Our offensive line did great. My receivers were catching the ball and I definitely had enough time to get it to them," Cavalieri said. "Our defense also played great in the first half, but we didn't help them out in the second half.

Led by Northwestern-bound quarterback Clayton Thorson (27-for-48, 389 yards, five touchdowns) and wide receiver Matt Bieglaski (15 catches, 247 yards), Wheaton North (9-2) produced a frenzied rally to squeak out the victory.

"In the second half we turned the ball over and couldn't hold onto it," Fenwick head coach Gene Nudo said. "Wheaton North is a high-powered offense and they're going to get their plays. We knew that coming in. We had our chances, too, but we couldn't capitalize."

While the Friars (9-2) obviously squandered a huge lead, several questionable penalties called against them in the second half also contributed to their second-half debacle. In the final minute, Fenwick engineered a potential game-winning drive, but a late holding call proved very detrimental. Earlier in the second half, an apparent touchdown for the Friars was ruled an incomplete pass by the officials.

Needless to say, Nudo was far from pleased with the officiating.

"The fact that [the IHSA] put a referee in this game from Wheaton is a travesty," he said. "I'm proud of our team and we should still be playing."

Last year, Fenwick lost to Rockford Boylan 22-21 on a 90-yard punt return and two-point conversion with no time left on the clock in another crushing second-round loss of the 7A playoffs.

Although the Friars' 7A postseason run is over, the Prep Bowl playoffs remain for the storied football program.

Fenwick flourished during the regular season under head coach Gene Nudo with a solid victory at Bishop Lynch in Dallas, along with road wins over Brother Rice and De La Salle. The Friars also successfully defended their Chicago Catholic League White Division title and cruised past Hersey 28-6 in the opening round of the playoffs this season.

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OP alum  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 9:41 PM

As a OPRF alum, I even enjoyed watching the spillane kid play. He seems like a "throwback" type of kid. Great career

Anonymous  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 5:11 PM

Brian, clearly you didn't see or hear the racist slurs that you beloved Falcons were saying throughout the game. Maybe you should check the facts next time...

WOW  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 8:51 AM

How can a playoff team lose such a big lead at half? Wow, Just WOW!

Brian from Wheaton  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 6:39 AM

The complete lack of sportsmanship displayed by some Fenwick students was embarrassing at the end of the game. Wheaton is used to big games, big wins and state championships. But I have never seen such poor sportsmanship. People there should be ashamed.

Real Friar Alum from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2013 11:02 PM

Robert Spillane is indeed a great kid, & Dan O'Brien wouldn't have had a thing to say about whether someone with tattoos could play. O'Brien primarily coached swimming, & later served as trainer, bus driver & got Tony Lawless' coffee. He did coach freshman football, but Robert was so good he jumped right to varsity. Dobber gave much to Fenwick, but mostly in terms of service. Little, if any power or influence.

Bob H from Lagrange   

Posted: November 12th, 2013 8:54 PM

The player with his initials on his arms is Robert Spillane, Grandson of Johnny Lattner. Good kid

Friar Alum from Hinsdale  

Posted: November 10th, 2013 5:03 PM

Great game Saturday evening. In the true Friar tradition our boys never gave up. By the way, what is the story on the player with all the tats? I have seen him play all year, it looks like he is sleeved. Dan O'Brien would have never let him play. I guess it is a changing world, even on Washington Blvd.

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