After missing the playoffs last season, The Fenwick High School football team returns to the postseason this year with a stellar 8-1 record and Chicago Catholic League Green Division championship in tow. The Friars earned measures of revenge as well with wins against a pair of reigning state champs, Phillips (Class 4A) and Montini (6A), who both routed Fenwick in 2015.
“We are very proud of the season we had especially being Catholic League (Green Division) Champions,” offensive lineman Sean Heslin said. “Our goal is to be playing Thanksgiving weekend and to bring Fenwick its first state championship in football.”
Fenwick will host Hononegah in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs. The Friars are seeded fourth in the 7A draw while the Indians (5-4) are the 29th seed.
Hononegah has qualified for the state playoffs 10 years in a row and features quarterback Dominic Ballano, wide receiver/returner Vito Guerrero and running back Dallas Washington.
If the heavily favored Friars win their postseason opener, a matchup awaits against the winner of Lake Zurich (7-2) and Harlem (6-3).
The top three seeds (in order and all undefeated) are Bradley-Bourbonnais, East St. Louis and Rolling Meadows. If the bracket holds to form, the Friars would clash with Bradley-Bourbonnais in the semifinals.
The Friars prepped for the postseason in ideal fashion with a 48-16 win over visiting De La Salle Friday at Triton College in River Grove.
Fenwick scored touchdowns on six of seven possessions in the first half en route to a comfortable win against the Meteors.
Senior running back Conner Lillig (9 carries, 122 yards) scored three times on runs and wide receivers Mike O’Laughlin, Sherman Martin and Alec Polston each contributed a TD reception as the Friars seized a commanding halftime lead of 42-0.
Senior quarterback Jacob Keller turned in another efficient performance with 135 yards and three TDs, completing 10 of 15 passes against De La Salle.
On their second possession of the game, the Friars drove 65 yards on eight plays capped off by Lillig’s 25-yard touchdown run off the left side to put Fenwick up 7-0. With 6:11 left in the first quarter, Fenwick scored touchdowns on its next three possessions via a Keller-to-Martin 26-yard pass, a 4-yard run by Lillig, and a 20-yard pass from Keller-to-O’Laughlin.
In the second quarter, Lillig scampered into the end zone with 6:55 left until halftime, extending the lead to 35-0. In the closing seconds of the second quarter, Keller tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Polston in the left corner of the end zone to mercifully end the first half.
With a running clock in the second half, Michael Paunove chipped in a touchdown run as the Friars played many of their reserves.
Fenwick’s Lorenzano Blakeney led the team in tackles with five and Ryan Chapman had an interception. Brett Moorman, Jason Ivery and Ellis Taylor added a sack apiece as the Friars applied pressure all night on De La Salle quarterback Robbie Simental.
With a favorable draw “on paper,” the Friars could make a run in the 7A playoffs. Regardless of what happens, the team has already reestablished the program’s winning ways via hard work, discipline and chemistry.
“Everyone put in a lot of work during the offseason to turn things around and get to this point. Our team has been so successful because everyone is buying in to what the coaches are saying and teaching. I don’t think everyone was doing that last year. We can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”