The Fenwick High School football team is for real.

The Friars’ attention-grabbing 38-6 win over Montini at Triton College, Friday night, reinforced the team’s improved play through three games this season.

After a disappointing 3-6 campaign in 2015, Fenwick returned 17 starters this season and already notched victories against Phillips, Bowen and Montini. Phillips and Montini are defending state champs in Class 4A and 6A, respectively. The Friars (3-0, 1-0 Chicago Catholic League Green) have outscored their opponents 123-32 and are averaging 41 points per game.

The Friars’ win against Montini on Friday avenged a 48-7 loss to the Broncos last season.

“The main key to victory for us was our will to keep fighting,” senior running back Conner Lillig said. “We knew they had a lot of good players, some who play on both sides of the ball. We had to come out with a chip on our shoulder and play at 110 percent on both sides of the ball.

“Beating Montini had to be the best feeling in the world for our team. After last year’s disappointing performance, this was a huge accomplishment for the entire program.”

Quarterback Jacob Keller and Lillig powered the Friars in their rematch victory. Keller completed 13 of 18 passes for 177 yards and rushed six times for 32 yards. He accounted for four touchdowns overall (2 passing, 2 rushing).

Lillig turned in a monster performance offensively with 201 yards and a TD on 31 carries. With Lillig and an excellent offensive line leading the way, Fenwick dominated on the ground with 42 carries for 242 yards.

The passing game has been potent as well, featuring a cadre of capable receivers. Jack Henige (5 catches, 62 yards, TD), Sherman Martin (3 catches, 46 yards, TD), Mike O’Laughlin (3 catches, 39 yards) and Lillig (1 catch, 16 yards) all contributed against Montini.

Even kicker Conor Hendzel took part in the scoring barrage with a 36-yard field goal. He also had three touchbacks on five kickoffs.

The Friars scored on their first four possessions of the first half. Keller threw a 16-yard TD pass to Martin and an 8-yard TD pass to Henige in the first quarter as Fenwick built a 14-0 lead. Hendzel’s field goal and an 11-yard run by Keller extended the lead to 24-0 in the second quarter.

In the second half, Lillig and Keller added touchdown runs of eight and seven yards, respectively, to close out the scoring for Fenwick.

Defensively, the Friars excelled with strong production from multiple players. Senior linebacker Brett Moorman had a team-high 5½ tackles plus a sack against Montini. Other top contributors included Lorenzano Blakeney (5 tackles, fumble recovery), Ryan Chapman (4 tackles), along with Ellis Taylor and Lorente Blakeney (3 tackles each). Jack Kaminski added a sack.

“As a program we had very high expectations going into the season,” Taylor said. “We expect to be a great team and we want to prove ourselves. We know we can compete with anyone and expect to do so every game. 3-0 is nice but we want much more.”

Senior running back Will Smith led Montini in rushing with 20 carries for 75 yards. Prince Walker, the Broncos’ top rusher, left the game in the second quarter with a strained quad injury.

Michael Cooney kicked a pair of field goals for Montini (1-2, 0-1).

In the Friars’ other signature win this season,  Keller completed 21 of 39 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns as the host Friars rallied from a 20-point deficit to stun reigning Class 4A state champion Phillips 34-26 at Triton College in the season opener.

“We’re all pretty excited, but we know we have a lot of work to do come Monday,” Keller said after the Phillips game. “We’re taking it one game at a time.”

So far it’s working. The Friars hit the road for the first time this season, taking on Leo Friday, Sept. 16. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...