Friars fall short in Blue Division shootout

Team flirts with upset, wears down in final quarter

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By LARRY ROGOWIN

Fenwick continues to prove that it can play with the superpowers of the Catholic League Blue Division.

But can the Friars win?

They're close.

Fenwick nearly matched defending Prep Bowl champion Brother Rice point for point during an eight touchdown exchange through the second and third quarters on a rainy Sunday in Berwyn.

But the Crusaders displayed some special-teams prowess and took advantage of two Fenwick turnovers in the final stanza on the way to a 41-27 win.

"Brother Rice had to play offense, defense and special teams to beat us today," said Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio, whose team dropped to 0-2 in Blue Division play and 2-3 overall. Brother Rice advanced its Blue record to 2-1 and 4-1 overall.

"Our kids play hard?#34;there's no doubt about it," added DiCanio. "The Catholic League Blue is going to have Fenwick to deal with for a while."

Junior running back Dan Mega's 1-yard touchdown plunge 36 seconds into the fourth quarter cut the Brother Rice lead to 28-27. But junior Pat Mulhern's extra point was blocked.

Fenwick stopped Brother Rice on its ensuing drive at the Crusaders' 21-yard-line, but a 66-yard punt from Rice senior Paul Gannon forced the Friars to set up possession at their own 13. Fenwick fumbled the ball away on the next play and the Crusaders used the next five plays to march to the end zone and take a 35-27 lead with 6:27 remaining in the game. Quarterback Tim Evans threw the last of three TD passes to Gannon from three yards out. Gannon led all receivers with seven catches for 120 yards.

Fenwick junior Kendrick Crump returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards, giving his team a first-and-10 at the Brother Rice 20. But the Friars were unable to turn great field position into points and turned the ball over on downs.

Following another booming Gannon punt, this one a 48-yarder, the Crusaders intercepted a pass from Friars quarterback Brien Rooney near midfield and added their final touchdown two plays later.

Brother Rice finished with 371 total yards on offense, 212 of which came on the ground.

Relieving junior Dan Walsh after a scoreless first quarter for both teams, Rooney completed 13 of 25 passes for 231 of Fenwick's total 275 yards on offense, fired two passes for touchdowns and rushed for another. The 6-foot, 180-pound junior connected with eight different receivers throughout the game.

"It was a gutty performance," said DiCanio of Rooney, who was still nursing the effects of a hip pointer sustained in last week's 51-0 win over Hales.

On his first TD strike, Rooney hit senior wide receiver Patrick Tobin in stride along the Fenwick sideline near the 35. Tobin then cut across the field and outraced several Rice defenders to the end zone. Mulhern's extra point knotted the score at 7-7 at the 4:55 mark of the second quarter.

Fenwick grabbed the lead nearly two minutes later on Rooney's 12-yard TD run. Unable to find an open receiver, Rooney surged forward out of the pocket, faked a throw to the end zone to freeze the defense and scampered in. Mulhern booted the Friars to a 14-7 lead.

Brother Rice tied the score at 14-14 (which carried into halftime) on its next offensive series. Junior Brendan Sheehy's 71-yard kickoff return set up the first Evans-Gannon touchdown of the day.

The Friars regained the lead for the final time on their first play from scrimmage in the second half. Scrambling away from pocket pressure, Rooney hooked up with senior Eric Bradley for a 67-yard TD pass. Mulhern made the score 21-14.

Fenwick continues Blue Division play Saturday at De La Salle (1:30 p.m.).

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