The St. Ignatius High School football team runs an unique offense in this day of spread offenses. Actually, it’s a throwback offense – one that was dominant years ago. It’s the triple-option, and it gives opposing defenses fits.
Fenwick found out the hard way about the Wolfpack’s offensive style last November in a 34-0 St. Ignatius win in the Prep Bowl Playoffs. Friday night at Triton College, the Friars and Wolfpack met again. Unfortunately for Fenwick, the outcome was exactly the same as the teams’ last meeting – a 34-0 defeat.
The Friars are a younger, less experienced team this fall, and afterwards head coach Gene Nudo admitted there’s a lot of development and work ahead.
“We got beat by a better football team,” he said. “Our kids work hard, but right now we’re nowhere near where we could be. We’re still a young, developing team. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Nudo also praised St. Ignatius and its offensive system.
“They’ve got a good system that poses a lot of problems because you don’t see a lot of offenses like this,” he said. “They get off the ball and get after people.”
It didn’t take long for St. Ignatius to grab the lead. The Wolfpack converted a key fourth down on their opening drive. Then on the next play, Giorgio Arquilla burst through the middle for a 61-yard touchdown run. The extra point made the score 7-0 at the 7:46 mark of the opening quarter.
Fenwick went three-and-out on its opening drive. However, on St. Ignatius’ next drive, the Friars forced a fumble, and Konrad Skowyra recovered to set up Fenwick in Wolfpack territory.
Quarterback Danny Cronin (6-for-9, 24 yards) led the Friars into St. Ignatius’ red zone early in the second quarter, but Brian Dowd missed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide left. Soon afterwards, a weather delay occurred that lasted over 90 minutes as rain and thunder passed through the area. Once play resumed, neither team did much offensively as St. Ignatius took a 7-0 lead into halftime.
Fenwick’s offensive struggles continued as Cronin was intercepted by Arquilla on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Gifted excellent field position at the Friars’ 29, it took seven plays for the Wolfpack to cash in as Alexander Callam scored on a 1-yard TD run, extending St. Ignatius’ lead to 14-0 at the 7:59 mark of the third.
After getting another three-and-out on defense, the Wolfpack offense started to roll. On a fourth-down play from the Fenwick 30, quarterback Rico Ponce connected with Callam on a 30-yard TD pass. Zach Allen’s third extra point raised the score to 21-0 Ignatius at the 3:45 mark.
The Wolfpack continued to hold the Friars’ attack in check, and put the game away with two more rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter – a 12-yard burst by Aidan Casey and a 24-yard run by D’Shaun McCullough – to account for the final score.
Since scoring nine points in the first quarter against Kenwood, Fenwick’s offense has been shut out for seven consecutive quarters. One reason for the struggles is likely the fact that the offensive line is young. But according to Nudo, that isn’t the only reason.
“Everything,” he replied when asked to explain. “There’s really no veteran leadership to speak of yet. The guys are doing the best they can, but we haven’t been able to put together anything rhythmic. We’ve been a good, rhythmic offense over the years.
“Mitch (Lopez) is playing hard, and I wish he was more consistent,” Nudo added. “But it’s not just him; we’ve got five guys upfront, we’ve got receivers. We’ve got a long way to go.”
“We were only down 7-0 going into the half, so we needed to come out strong in the second half,” said Lopez, who led Fenwick with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries. “We made a few mental mistakes; if we fix those, it’s a different game. There are a lot of things we can work on; we’ve got to work hard in practice.”
The Friar defense had several good moments, but the offensive struggles meant it had to be on the field for a long time against a strong ball-control team like St. Ignatius and consequently wore down.
Defensively, Tim Carey led Fenwick with 8.5 tackles and Konrad Skowyra had 7.5 tackles and a fumble recovery. Forst finished with five tackles.
“I thought we started off good,” defensive lineman Max Forst said. “We were strong up front and weren’t getting pushed back. Around halftime, we seemed to let up a bit. They started pushing us back in the second half and took advantage of it.”
The schedule looks daunting for Fenwick with three consecutive road games, starting Friday, September 7 at Brother Rice.
“Our schedule’s a hard schedule,” Nudo said. “I knew Kenwood would be a good team and I expected St. Ignatius to be a good team.”
The players feel things can turn around if they continue to work hard.
“(Brother Rice) is obviously a powerhouse,” Lopez said. “We’ll be (ready) Friday.”
Added Forst: “We’ve got to get back at it next week. We do have a challenging schedule, but I have trust in my team; we feel we can do it.”