After last year’s disappointing 3-6 season, the Fenwick High School football team figured a strong season was in order this year. While there were mitigating circumstances last season, such as a rash of injuries to key players, relative inexperience and an extremely difficult schedule, the Friars believed they had the players to win plenty of games this year.
“Last year was not Fenwick’s best,” senior running back Conner Lillig said, “but we have come a long way since then because everybody on our team has strived for success.
“As (Fenwick head) coach Nudo says, ‘We are always a work in progress,’ meaning we can always improve, which only helps us become more successful.”
The Friars’ determination and confidence, coupled with plenty of talent, has been on display all season. Fenwick is 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the Chicago Catholic League Green Division after Friday’s 49-20 win against St. Francis in Wheaton Friday. The victory secured the CCL Green championship for the Friars.
Senior quarterback Jacob Keller (10-for-14, 123 yards, 3 TDs) threw touchdown passes, one each to Lillig, Mike O’Laughlin (3 catches, 42 yards) and Sherman Martin (4 catches, 41 yards) in the first quarter, powering Fenwick to a 21-0 lead over St. Francis.
In the second quarter, running backs Michael Paunove and Jackson Haeflinger tacked on a touchdown apiece as the Friars extended their lead to 35-0 at halftime.
Fenwick linebacker Brett Moorman returned a fumble for a touchdown to make the score 42-0 in the second half. Lillig added a TD run as well, and the Spartans scored three touchdowns in the second half to close out the scoring at 49-20.
Lillig led Fenwick in rushing with 124 yards on 12 carries as the Friars finished with 25 carries for 172 yards overall.
Defensively, several players impacted the game with notable plays, including Moorman’s TD return, Ellis Taylor (sack, caused fumble), Ryan Chapman (fumble recovery) and Marty Stein (interception).
“I thought our win over St. Francis was one of our most complete games of the year,” Moorman said. “We really executed on all phases of the game.
“Marty Stein and Adrian Nourse both played another great game. I think those two guys are sometimes overlooked even though they are a huge part of what we do on defense.”
Stein said the chemistry among players has been a huge factor in the Friars’ bounce-back season.
“The camaraderie on our team is something special,” Stein said. “It makes us play a whole lot better. We are all proud of each other. The success we’ve had as a team is attributed to all the hard work we put in during last winter and summer.”
The Friars close out the regular season against De La Salle on Friday, Oct. 21 (7:30 p.m.) at Triton College in River Grove.
“The De La Salle game is big for us in accomplishing our goals,” Fenwick offensive lineman Joe Calcagno said. “Those goals are to win the Chicago Catholic League Green outright and secure at least one home game in the playoffs.
“Most of all, we need to keep our momentum going into the playoffs.”
Fenwick will be a tough out in the playoffs with its high-powered offense and stingy defense.
Keller has turned in a superb season under center. A great all-around athlete, Keller excels in the pocket or on the move as a dual threat quarterbacl. Lillig has been a workhorse in the backfield, shouldering the load of carries and also catching passes out of the backfield. In terms of the passing game, overall, Keller has several playmakers at his disposal, notably outstanding receivers Mike O’Laughlin and Sherman Martin plus tight end Jack Henige.
Defensively, Moorman and Taylor lead a terrific group of defensive linemen and linebackers. Nourse, Stein and promising freshman Jacob Kaminski have also played well. Brothers Lorenzano and Lorente Blakeney, along with Ryan Chapman, anchor the secondary.
And don’t forget head coach Gene Nudo and the rest of the Fenwick coaching staff, which has kept the team focused all season.