Fenwick High School football’s Jacque Walls has excelled on defense the past two seasons, being named to the All-Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference team this fall at cornerback.
But with running back Danny Kent being limited the past two weeks, Walls has also filled that a void.
After running for 110 yards against Kaneland in the playoff opener, Walls ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to help the Friars (9-2) get past Rockford Boylan 24-14 in a second-round IHSA Class 5A playoff game on Nov. 6.
“I’m a ballplayer. Either side of the ball doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m helping the team,” Walls said.
Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia complimented Walls on his explosiveness on offense the past two weeks.
“The burst, energy and hunger he’s shown has helped set the tone for the offense,” he said. “Danny’s been our emotional leader, but Jacque has filled those shoes big-time, and that’s not easy to do.”
Boylan quarterback Joey Appino fumbled through the end zone on the opening possession for a touchback, giving Fenwick the ball at their 20. On a third-and-3 from the 27, Walls burst through the left side and took it to the house for a 73-yard touchdown and a lead the Friars would not relinquish.
“We only needed about three yards, and once I got them, I thought we were good,” said Walls. “Then I broke a tackle and said it’s a touchdown.”
In the second quarter, Fenwick quarterback Kaden Cobb (13-of-19 passing, 186 yards, TD, 2 INT) was sacked in the red zone and fumbled, with the Titans recovering at their 4. But two plays later, Fenwick cornerback Denium Juette picked off an Appino pass and returned it to the Boylan 1. Walls scored his second touchdown on the next play to give the Friars a 14-0 lead.
After Appino connected with Tyler Mathias for a 4-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, Fenwick’s Iain Ramage drilled a 42-yard field goal to give the Friars a 17-7 halftime lead. Then on the opening drive of the second half, Cobb’s 43-yard pass to Max Reese put Fenwick in business inside the Boylan red zone.
A Cobb-to-Reese touchdown pass from the Titans’ 8 was wiped out by a holding penalty, but on the next play, the duo connected for an 18-yard score, giving Fenwick a 24-7 lead at the 8:56 mark of the third quarter.
Appino scored on a 10-yard run to bring Boylan within 10 points later in the third, but that turned out to be the game’s last scoring play as the Friars shut down the Titans’ attack the rest of the way.
Martin Paris led Fenwick’s defense with 7.5 tackles, with twin brother Conor adding six tackles.
“We always try to outdo each other,” said Martin Paris. “Whenever Conor makes a good play, I’ve got to come back the next one and bring it.”
Luke D’Alise (5.5 tackles), Juette (5 tackles, interception), and Ramage (interception) were other contributors defensively for the Friars.
“That’s something we’ve improved on throughout the year,” said Battaglia of closing out close games. “We had a couple of games early on where it came down to the wire and we couldn’t find a way to win. But I think we’ve gone over that hump, and now we’ve got to clean up some things and protect the football.”
Up next is a Class 5A quarterfinal matchup with Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. The Roadrunners (7-4), led by freshman quarterback Logan Malachuk, won their final three regular-season games to qualify for the playoffs and outscored their first two 5A opponents — Goode and Marmion Academy — 87-20 on the road.
Battaglia, who is familiar with Nazareth and coach Tim Racki from his playing days at Marist High School, anticipates a fierce battle.
“They’re a really good team with some of the best coaches in the state,” Battaglia said. “It’s going to be a big-time atmosphere.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Nov. 13.