Physical isn’t a strong enough word to describe Saturday’s Fenwick/Loyola match-up at Morton West High School; it was more like smash-mouth football, and the Friars emerged as heavyweight champs with a 20-0 knockout of their Chicago Catholic (Blue) League rivals. The victory assured Fenwick a ticket to the postseason.

The Friars (6-2, 3-2) matched Loyola pound-for-pound and round-for-round, scoring on their first drive when quarterback Brien Rooney scampered in from the 13-yard line with 9:11 left in the opening quarter. Fenwick opened the game by marching 71 yards in eight plays. Rooney (101 yards rushing) then directed a 7-play, 104-yard drive in the second quarter, capped by the senior’s 54-yard touchdown run. Nick Caldicott made a diving catch from Rooney for the 2-point conversion and the Friars took a 14-0 lead.

Aside from Rooney’s heroics, the most exciting moment of the game came with under three minutes left in the first half. On fourth down on Fenwick’s 2-yard line, the Ramblers were thwarted by the Friars’ unyielding defense. Led by linebackers Patrick Doyle and Dan Walsh (2 tackles for loss), the Friars buried Adam Gelsomino, who had come in to replace injured star running back Joe Suhey. Suhey was injured on a run up the middle a few plays prior and did not return to the game. He finished with seven carries for 45 yards.

Austin Gordon, Dan Mega, Dan Muldowney, and Marty Mullen wobbled the Ramblers with bone-rattling hits in the second half. The Friars ended the scoring in the fourth quarter when Colin Tobin reversed direction on a running play and scampered 12 yards for a touchdown.

Muldowney and Mullen sealed the victory by sacking Loyola quarterback Peter Badovinac for a 17-yard loss near the end of the game.

“Everything we set out to do we ultimately accomplished today,” said Fenwick head coach Joe DiCanio. “We wanted to shorten up the game, and we wanted to stop the pass and we did that. The defense did an outstanding job today. You couldn’t ask for a better performance.

“For this team to emerge from the Blue Division of the Catholic League, in my opinion the toughest league in the state hands down, and make the playoffs, shows how good we are. I’m proud of these guys.”

DiCanio gave an emotional post-game speech to his team, hollering “I love you guys. I love this program. I love this school. I love where I work. I love my job!”

The coach may be in for more euphoria if his Friars can pull off an upset of highly-ranked Mt. Carmel at Gately Stadium this Friday (7 p.m.). The Caravan was undefeated up until a 7-6 loss to St. Rita last week. Fenwick defeated St. Rita 19-17 in September.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...