After earning a share of the Chicago Catholic League Green Division championship with Montini last season, the Fenwick football team entered the IHSA Class 7A state playoffs with high hopes, only to be dashed by Wheaton North 35-7.

When Wheaton North’s Christian Halstead returned the opening kickoff  96 yards for a 7-0 advantage, the Falcons never looked back.

Ending their season in disappointment, the Friars have made the most of the offseason, as they look to redeem themselves against Kenwood (Aug. 24) in their season opener.

Fenwick coach Gene Nudo has been working extensively with the incoming squad the last few weeks.

“Kenwood is going to be one of the top teams in the public league this year,” Nudo said. “They’ve got two all-state players returning so we open with a challenge.”

Fenwick will have its hands full this fall with a schedule accompanied by the likes of CCL Green rivals St. Ignatius, Mt. Carmel and De La Salle.

“In football, you only get to play nine of them,” Nudo said. “It’s not like you can lose today and play a doubleheader tomorrow, so whatever happens, you’ve got to live with it for a week.

“I don’t know where there are any breathers in our schedule but we are certainly looking forward to the challenge.”

Similar to last season, the Friars will look to make use of their young guns, including rising junior and returning quarterback Danny Cronin. Last season, Cronin accounted for 12 touchdowns (9 passing, 3 rushing) and completed 53 percent of his passes. His size, arm strength and overall athleticism make him a Division I prospect.

Additionally, Fenwick will boast a strong presence on special teams as junior and all-conference kicker Brian Dowd returns after last fall’s stellar footwork. He made 6-of-8 field goals and went 30-for-30 on extra points.

Dowd, who also played on the soccer team, reinforces Fenwick’s unique philosophy of using alternative skill sets to give them an edge on the field.

“Our numbers aren’t as large as they’ve been in the past six years that I’ve been here, but we are excited,” Nudo said. “We have been training all of our guys to play an offensive and defensive position.”

On the field, Fenwick plans to maintain its tried and true methods of attack.

“Defensively, we’re going to get after people,” Nudo said. “We are going to send a lot of guys after the quarterback and force the issue on defense.”

Linebacker Max Forst (52 tackles, 4 for loss in 2017), cornerback Solomon Singleton (37 tackles, interception) and defensive lineman Konrad Skowyra are notable playmakers.

On the other side of the ball, the Friars will run a multiple-set offense.

“We can run power football or throw it around,” Nudo said.

Fenwick should be highly competitive again this season. Since 2012, the Friars have won four CCL division titles and made it the Class 7A state semifinals (2016) and state quarterfinals (2014).

Nudo also knows that much of his team’s success will be aided by a solid coaching staff.

“This group needs to continue to come together. When your numbers are like ours, as coaches we have to work smart with these guys and make sure we are not leaving our best game on the practice field,” Nudo said. “We have to be ready to go every Friday night.”

Throughout the program, accountability seems to be a key principle, along with Fenwick’s perennial priority: win conference.  

“We need to put our players in a position to succeed,” Nudo said. “They have willing hearts, which has been evident through their work all summer and in the weight room through the winter.”

Winning conference four out of the past six years, expectations are understandably again high this season. However with more competition in their conference, Nudo believes the Friars are ready to meet any challenge they face.

“We know there’s going to be challenges for us, but at a certain point we have to meet the challenge,” Nudo said. “We are excited about it.”

With this season’s schedule, the Friars will need to have all hands on deck including their reserves.

“Football is not an easy sport,” Nudo said. “We all feel we have the ability to win the conference. Now we just have to prove it.”

Scouting report

Fenwick Friars at a glance

Head Coach: Gene Nudo (7th Season, 47-24 record)

Last Season: (7-5, 3-1 CCL Green); Lost to Wheaton North 35-7 in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs

Top Returning Players: QB Danny Cronin, DB Solomon Singleton, LB/FB Max Forst, DL Konrad Skowrya, K Brian Dowd

Others to Watch: RB Mitch Lopez,  RB Thomas Mills,  OL Sean Carpenter, OL Emmett Bonaccorsi,  OL Jamie Moran, TE Marcus Wright, WR Jonas Capek

Outlook: Although the Friars are a young team, they have experience and talent back at several key positions, notably quarterback with Cronin. However, the regular schedule has never been tougher and includes matchups against conference rivals in Mount Carmel, De La Salle and St. Ignatius. If Fenwick can pull off two quick wins against Kenwood and St. Ignatius, they will be in a good position to battle Mount Carmel and De La Salle down the line.

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