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By Brad Spencer
The Fenwick football team's website has a running clock entitled, "Countdown to Kickoff!" For Gino Nudo, the kick-off can't come soon enough.
Nudo, hired as head coach last December following the dismissal of Joe DiCanio mid-season, is anxious to begin a new slate for the Fenwick football program. It's been awhile since he's been at the helm of a high school team. Before arriving at Fenwick, Nudo served as president and general manager of the Arena Football League's Chicago Rush. He coached Driscoll Catholic High School to the school's first ever state championship in 1991. From 2007-2010, Nudo was an assistant coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Ariz. The team won a state football championship in 2007.
While a state championship may be a lofty goal for a team coming off a 4-6 overall record and returning just a handful of starting seniors, Nudo is optimistic his Friars will make strides this season.
"We've implemented a whole new system on both sides of the ball," he said. "The terminology is also all new, particularly on offense, but we are dealing with very bright kids, which is good. I'm very pleased with where we are to this point, but obviously we have a long way to go. The guys are making the effort and they are having fun playing football."
It's no secret the team is centered around All-Catholic League player Pat Hart. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior will primarily play linebacker this season, but Nudo is sure to utilize his talents on offense as well. Six-foot, 215-pound running back Robert Spillane, one of several grandsons of 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner on the team, will share time with Hart in the backfield. The two will also make up a bruising force together on certain plays, hinted Nudo, who, as of last week, was considering a platooning situation at the quarterback position.
Junior Gino Cavalieri and senior Danny Lattner were in the running to start at QB for the opener at Hales on Aug. 25.
"Cavalieri has moxie to him, and he's been playing the position, where Lattner got thrown into the fire last year late in the season. They are running neck-and-neck," said Nudo. "As far as rotating QBs, I've seen it done successfully, but it can also end up being a nightmare. Until one player emerges, I'll stay open minded."
Whomever ends up behind center, his throwing targets will likely be seniors Nick Gallo or David Guerrero. Both have speed and experience.
Seniors Vince Napolitano (6-2, 300 pounds) and Rocco Stefanini (6-3, 350) return to anchor the offensive line, while 6-5, 245-pound Kyle Pullia (6-5, 245) will hold down the defense alongside such notables as Richie Lasek and John Lattner, who had four interceptions at safety last season.
Juniors Richard Schoen (linebacker), Ryan Smith (tight end), Keshawn Smith (defensive back) and Danny Cooney (tackle) are expected to see significant playing time, as our sophomores Chris Hawthorne (tackle) and Aaron Garland (cornerback).
There won't be any breathing room for the Friars as they open the season against a loaded Hales team. Fenger transfer Darrien Boone is a Central Michigan recruit, as is receiver Joe Morrow.
"The season depends on how you get out of the blocks," said Nudo. "Those first two weeks are critical, and hopefully everything else will take care of itself."
The Fenwick countdown clock will hit the zero hour at 1:30 p.m. on August 25 at Hales.