By Marty Farmer
On the football page of the Fenwick High School website, the Friars Football Kickoff countdown (which continues to methodically tick away until Saturday's 7:30 p.m. home opener against St. Joseph) is prominently displayed.
After the way last season ended in a shocking moment of serious misfortune, you can't blame the Friars for counting the seconds to their 2013 season opener.
In the second round of last year's Class 7A playoffs, Fenwick led two-time defending state champion Rockford Boylan 21-14 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. The Titans' Pete Cimino returned a punt 90 yards with no time left on the clock and Zack Matthews ran in the game-winning two point conversion to deal the Friars a stunning 22-21 loss.
"Like anything in life, if you can't move on you'll be stuck in the rear view mirror forever," said Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said after a practice earlier this summer. "Obviously, we lost a heartbreaking game against the two-time defending state champs. We had them on the ropes; we proved that we can compete at a high level."
The Friars, who won the Chicago Catholic League White championship en route to an 8-4 record last season, appear poised for further success under Nudo in his second year at Fenwick.
"Last year, there were some growing pains," said senior running back Robert Spillane, who has verbally committed to Western Michigan. "Heading into this season, we already know the playbook and its terminology."
Spillane and 6-foot, 170-pound quarterback Gino Cavalieri along with 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end Ryan Smith offer a trio of offensive players arguably as effective as any group in the Catholic League. Spillance is a do-it-all running back who rushed for 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns on 163 carries last season. For good measure, he caught 27 passes for 299 yards and eight touchdowns. Cavalieri (1,416 passing yards, 19 touchdowns) often looked for Smith, who caught 23 passes for 287 yards and three scores.
Other playmakers for Fenwick include wide receivers Jimmy Donahue, Rich Schoen and Mike Hanrahan. Left tackle Danny Cooney, left guard Rory Hannigan, center Greg Lazzara, right guard Jacob Konrad and right tackle Anthony Caputo comprise the offensive line.
Junior defensive lineman Chris Hawthorne, senior cornerback Keshaun Smith along with linebackers Spillane and Schoen (team-high 55 tackles, two interceptions) headline a physical, athletic defense.
The 6-foot, 245-pound Hawthorne has been particularly impressive in preseason workouts, according to Nudo. Last year, he anchored the middle of the line with 24 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.
"We're just trying to be a better team than we were last year," Hawthorne said. "We have worked our butts off during the offseason. Some people will view as underdogs, but we feel like we can play with any team in the state."
The Friars' schedule is littered with intriguing matchups including tough games at Brother Rice and De La Salle. Fenwick travels to Dallas in Week 2 to take on Bishop Lynch and also hosts Providence for Homecoming at Concordia in mid-October.
Friars hosts Providence at Concordia for homecoming game
By Deb Kadin, Contributing Reporter
Fenwick High School will play its homecoming game at Concordia University this fall after River Forest trustees allowed the game to be take place in the institution's stadium.
Concordia received a planned development permit in 1999 for construction of the stadium, with the proviso that the campus could not host football games from high schools and other entities, village officials said. But trustees went ahead and authorized an exemption for Concordia to hold the game after receiving positive feedback from neighbors and village staff.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, The sophomore game will be played at 11 a.m.; the varsity game against Chicago Catholic League rival Providence Catholic will start at 1:30 p.m.
Setting up the request was Fenwick as it doesn't have its own field, and most of the home games are played at Morton West High School in Berwyn. Since Fenwick students come from communities across the area, hosting a different game in a different neighborhood allows the school to attract more people to the game, said Nancy Bufarino, Fenwick's chief operating officer.
"Given (Concordia) is in River Forest, we are expecting a good crowd," Bufarino said.
An estimated 1,500 are expected to attend the varsity game, according to Eric Matanyi, Concordia's assistant vice president of communications and marketing.
And Matanyi said the school will have more than enough adequate parking and staffing to handle the crowds. Twice a year about 2,500 come to campus for commencement. Last November, Concordia had at least 1,500 when the school played in its first-ever NCAA Division III playoff game against Lakeland College.
Volunteers review these types of events to make sure all resources are in place. Matanyi said the college works closely with the police department should any extra support be needed on that day.
"For traffic control and directions, our public safety team will be available. We'll handle just about anything on our own. This is a nice opportunity for us to partner with Fenwick so people can see the game," he said.