The triple-option offense is one that is rarely used in football these days. It’s difficult for defenses to prepare for and requires them to show a lot of discipline.
It’s also the offense St. Ignatius uses, and it was on display Friday night at Triton College as the Wolfpack visited Fenwick.
While St. Ignatius moved the ball well at times, the Friars’ defense not only kept the Wolfpack from scoring, it forced five turnovers as Fenwick prevailed 10-0 in its season finale.
“Coach [Titcus] Pettigrew, he’s been here for a while and knows how the option runs,” said Fenwick senior defensive back/quarterback Nick Polston of the Friars’ defensive coordinator. “We played them our sophomore year and shut them out, and I was really confident in coach Pettigrew and our linebacker coaches [Aidan Conlon and Jim Farnan]. All of our guys were super-disciplined.”
Fenwick head coach Matt Battaglia said the team treated this game as if it was for a state championship and cited the defensive effort as the key to victory.
“[Pettigrew] did a heck of a job with those guys, and they just wanted it,” he said. “They prepared all week for this offense, and they came ready. I can’t be more proud of them in how they executed.”
The first half was scoreless as the teams squandered opportunities for points. Fenwick (3-2) moved the ball into the St. Ignatius red zone twice, but came away empty each time. The second opportunity, which came midway in the second quarter, was especially frustrating as a 22-yard touchdown pass from sophomore E.J. Hosty to senior running back Isaac Novak was called back due to a holding penalty. Then junior Eian Pugh dropped a certain touchdown in the end zone a few plays later.
This possession came after the Friars’ defense had snuffed out a Wolfpack scoring threat on the previous drive with Polston recovering a fumble on the Fenwick 14.
In the third quarter, Fenwick forced another Ignatius turnover deep within the Friars’ own half — junior Aidan Vargas recovered a fumble at the 14 — and this time the Friars were able to capitalize.
A Novak run of 28 yards and a Hosty pass of 11 yards to junior Max Reese moved the ball into Wolfpack territory, then runs of nine, eight and 13 yards by junior Danny Kent put the Friars into the red zone. Sophomore Pat Durkin powered his way in for a touchdown from one yard out to give Fenwick a 7-0 lead with 11 seconds to go in the third.
The Friars’ defense took over in the fourth quarter, forcing the Wolfpack into turnovers on all three of their possessions. The first was an interception by junior Martin Paris, who also forced three fumbles. Fenwick punted on the ensuing drive, but the ball was downed at the Ignatius 1-yard line and ultimately led to the second turnover, a fumble recovery by Conor Stetz at the Ignatius 25. That set up a successful 38-yard field goal by junior Iain Ramge that raised Fenwick’s advantage to 10-0 with 3:36 remaining.
“In practice later in the season, we started flipping guys on offense and defense, and that unified the team. I really think that’s what gave us the strength to get this shutout,” said Polston.
Finally, junior Denium Juette intercepted Ignatius quarterback Leo Rugai on the ensuing possession to seal the victory, which was the Friars’ third consecutive to end the season.
“We had some heartbreaking losses, but tonight made it all worth it,” Polston said.
The Friars gradually improved as the year progressed, and Battaglia said he wished the season had been longer than the six weeks allotted by the IHSA.
“We just focused on getting better each week, and we really grew as a team. I’m sorry we only had six games with them,” said Battaglia.
However, the good news is that Fenwick will have plenty of talented returnees for the fall season, including quarterbacks Kaden Cobb and Hosty, who filled in ably when Cobb was injured; running back Kent; wide receivers Pugh, Reese and Bryan Hunt; fullback/tight end Durkin; linemen Vargas, Rasheed Anderson, Quin Wieties, and Jimmy Liston; linebacker Conor Paris; and defensive backs Juette, Martin Paris, and Jacque Walls.