The Fenwick football team completed a season sweep of Brother Rice the hard way on Friday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
The Friars, who defeated Brother Rice 23-7 the last game of the regular season, edged the Crusaders 7-3 in their rematch to earn their first trip to the Prep Bowl Championship game since 1991. Fenwick (7-5) plays Curie, which beat Morgan Park 40-34 in double-overtime, at Soldier Field on Friday (11 a.m.) in the Prep Bowl title game.
“It’s an incredible feeling to win this game and play at Soldier Field for the Prep Bowl Championship,” Fenwick quarterback Chris Hart said. “We never got down [against Brother Rice] because we know we have skilled players who can bounce back.”
Fenwick and Brother Rice combined for nine turnovers with both defenses controlling play.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win is a win,” added Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio. “Our defense played great. We’re playing the last week of the season and that hasn’t happened around [here] in a long time.”
Senior running back Eric Hulihan (14 carries, 83 yards) scored the Friars’ lone touchdown on a 40-yard run and Vince Falk kicked the PAT, giving Fenwick a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Hart (21 carries, 80 yards) also led Fenwick offensively as the Friars rushed for 173 yards on 43 carries.
Facing a fourth down-and-six on the Brother Rice 32 early in the third quarter, Hart ran 10 yards, breaking several tackles and producing two spin-o-ramas to gain the key first down. Four plays later, the Friars converted a fourth-and-seven from the Crusaders’ 19 when Hart pitched the ball to Hulihan who then tossed it to Stibich on a successful double reverse. But Hart finished the drive with a turnover, committing a fumble in the end zone recovered by Brother Rice.
In the fourth quarter, Brother Rice quarterback Billy McGivern tossed a 20-yard pass to Andrew Walker to give the Crusaders a first-and-goal at the Fenwick 5. The Friars’ defense held strong, allowing just three yards on three plays. Ryan Neilan kicked a 20-yard field goal to whittle the Friars’ lead to 7-3 with 9:42 remaining in the game.
“We knew that we would face adversity some time during the game,” Fenwick linebacker Ricky Sorrentino said. “We persevered and our defense came up big for us.”
After Fenwick punt returner Joe Kelly muffed his second punt, Brother Rice took over at the Friars’ 20 with 6:45 remaining. Three plays later, Kelly rebounded nicely with a critical interception off a McGivern (8-for-16, 110 yards) pass.
“It was not my day on punt returns,” Kelly said. “I knew I had to make up for [the fumbled punts] by making a play. We’re a close team. I didn’t want to let these guys down.”
Andrew Walker rushed seven times for 63 yards for Brother Rice (6-6).