Coming off two bruising losses to a couple of the state’s best high school football teams in Mt. Carmel and St. Rita, Fenwick somewhat bounced back by trouncing Leo 45-20 to commemorate its Homecoming at Morton West High School on Saturday afternoon.
The Friars (2-3), who began their return to the Catholic League Blue Division this season by allowing a total of 84 points while scoring just 27 in the back-to-back losses, found victory in their first Saturday afternoon game of the season, but not without drawing the ire of head coach Joe DiCanio.
“It was the most disappointing victory I’ve ever been associated with,” said DiCanio, who had his team practicing “boot-camp style” on Sunday for a few hours after the Homecoming dance the night before. “I think our players thought it was a vacation day.
“I was impressed with their play when we lost to St. Rita, but the way they played in this win was shameful. They were completely unfocused. It’s sloppy football when you have to put away a team twice in one game.”
DiCanio’s frustration stemmed mostly from how the Friars played in the first half. High snaps, missed assignments on defense and a lazy offensive performance, including two fumbles, led to the Friars holding a tenuous 9-0 lead at halftime.
After DiCanio gave the team a stern tongue-lashing during the intermission, Fenwick came out and scored two touchdowns in three plays. Joe Romano (19-of-29, 275 yards, 3 TDs) hit Nolan Hopkinson for a 60-yard touchdown pass. Fenwick added two more points with Romano’s quick pass to Xavier Vergara. Bret Strelzcyk also scored in the third on a 38-yard run.
But Leo countered with three straight touchdowns in the fourth, forcing DiCanio to reinsert his starters. Gerard Baker (20-of-46, 263 yards, 2 TDs) started the scoring barrage with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Baker then hit Layontae Johnson (8 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs) for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 3:28 left in the game. Baker found Johnson again for the 2-point conversion.
Jack Stibich brought the Friars back with a 28-yard touchdown run, and Romano bolted in from 10 yards out with 1:38 to close out the scoring.
Fenwick travels to Providence on Friday night and DiCanio said his team better be ready to play.
“I’m changing the atmosphere this week. It’s going to be a blue-collar, take-no-prisoner attitude. Because if we play the way we did against Leo, there’s no question we will lose. But if we play like we did against St. Rita, we’ll win,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.
“My goal this week is to break their spirit,” he added. “It’s either quit or commit. There is no in-between. That’s it.”