Just when they thought they were out, the Fenwick football team was pulled back in.

Well, maybe the Friarsf move from the Chicago Catholic League White Division to the bruising Blue Division this season wasnft so dramatic. After all, the program has only been away from the Blue for two years, back when it came within three points of playing for the division championship.

With a schedule loaded with not only Blue Division opponents but top state contenders in Rock Island and Notre Dame, it will take a little something extra for the Friars to return to the playoffs this season.

“The only thing we can do is to be ready to play and to play hard,” said Fenwick head coach Joe DiCanio. “This is a team that is not afraid to play anyone.”

Returning to a squad that finished 7-5 last season and claimed a share of the White Division title with De La Salle includes defensive end/offensive tackle Jack Dittmer (6-foot-4, 255 pounds), offensive guard Connor Glazier (6-4, 290), quarterback Joe Romano (5-8, 170) and wide receivers Phil Gough (5-11, 170) and Nico Krajecki (6-4, 220).

Dittmer is currently mulling over offers from Air Force, Ball State, Central Michigan and Harvard.

Adding to the bulk that Fenwick will need to stop premiere teams like Mt. Carmel, St. Rita and Providence this season are senior linebackers Mark Donatelli (6-1, 215) and Bret Strelczyk (6-1, 195), as well as junior linebacker Rick Sorrentino (6-0, 185) and defensive tackle Glenn Sommers (6-1, 235).

Fenwickfs running game will fall on the shoulders of Strelczyk, sophomore Jack Stibich (6-2, 185) and junior Eric Hulihan (5-9, 165).

Fenwick kicks off the season at Rock Island on Friday. The team will host Leo for its home opener and Homecoming game on Sept. 26 at Morton West High School (1:30 p.m.).

“The one advantage of being in this division is if we do make the playoffs we will be ready to take on anybody,” said DiCanio. “Last year we werenft playoff ready, but with our schedule this season itfs playoff football from the start.”

On Sept. 11, the Friars will return to Toyota Park, where last season, together with De La Salle, they played the first football game at the facility. Fenwick will take on powerhouse Mt. Carmel this time around. The game will also feature the return of Mt. Carmel head coach Frank Lenti, who will have served out a self-imposed two-game suspension for violating IHSA recruiting rules.

Up Close

Key returners: Jack Dittmer, Nico Krajecki, Joe Romano

2008 record (finish):

3-1 co-champs CCL White Division; 7-5 overall

Tidbit:

The bruising Blue Division will be a challenge, but the Friars seem to thrive on challenges.

Coach’s quote:

“This is one of the most talented and intelligent teams Ifve ever coached. Many of the players are being recruited by Ivy League schools.”

2009 Schedule

Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m. at Rock Island
Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m. at Notre Dame
Sept. 11, 7 p.m. vs. *Mt. Carmel (at Toyota Park)
Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m. at *St. Rita
Sept. 26, 1:30 p.m. vs. Leo (Homecoming)
Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m. at *Providence
Oct. 10, 1:30 p.m. vs. *Loyola
Oct. 17, 1:30 p.m. vs. Hales
Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m. at *Brother Rice

*Denotes league games. All home games are at Morton West High School unless noted.

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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...