The long-awaited debut for new Fenwick High School head football coach Matt Battaglia, delayed last week by COVID-19 protocols, came on Sunday evening at Triton College against visiting Joliet Catholic Academy.

Unfortunately, the Hilltoppers spoiled the occasion, setting the tone on the game’s first play from scrimmage with a 71-yard touchdown pass from Aidan Voss to Ja’Arie Mack. The Friars were never able to recover and fell 42-7.

“We shot ourselves in the foot, and [Joliet Catholic] had a great plan and is well-coached,” said Battaglia of the outcome.

Junior running back Jordan Anderson had a sensational performance for the Hilltoppers, tallying five touchdowns for the night (1 receiving. 4 rushing). His final touchdown, which came at the 7:55 mark of the third quarter, gave Joliet Catholic a 42-0 lead and necessitated a running clock for the remainder of the contest.

Fenwick avoided a shutout when junior quarterback Kaden Cobb (13-for-30 passing, 157 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) found junior wide receiver Eian Pugh (5 receptions, 45 yards) for a 21-yard score with 5:11 remaining. But for the most part, the Friars struggled to generate any offense, and Battaglia cited penalties as the main reason.

“We would advance the ball, but it’s hard to sustain anything when it’s first-and-15 or second-and-20. We don’t have many plays in the book for those situations,” he said.

Fenwick running back Isaac Novak rushed eight times for 31 yards, while junior defensive lineman Quin Wieties notched a fumble recovery.

Despite the loss, Battaglia was glad Fenwick was able to play after enduring a long layoff due to the pandemic.

“It was huge,” he said. “This was an opportunity for us to get some game action. We were on two days prep, and it’s not easy to play a team like [Joliet Catholic] in that situation. But, there are no excuses, and they were good competition for us.”

Fenwick’s next game is scheduled for Saturday, April 3. The Friars will travel to Aurora to face Marmion Academy. Battaglia is hoping for improved consistency and execution as the season progresses.

“We’ve got to execute our plays and schemes like we can, and we’ll have success,” he said. “We had some tonight, but, again, we shot ourselves in the foot.”

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