The 2021 football season will go down in the annals of Fenwick High School, as the Friars finished 12-2 and won the IHSA Class 5A state title, its first in the school’s illustrious gridiron history.
But with 30 players lost to graduation, Fenwick and third-year head coach Matt Battaglia have put the state glory in the rearview mirror.
“[Battaglia] told us he didn’t want to hear anything about last season,” said senior defensive lineman Mirko Jaksic. “This season is a new team. It’s a new year, and we’ve got to achieve greatness again.”
Replacing three-year starting quarterback Kaden Cobb (now at Ball State University) won’t be easy. Two candidates for the job are senior E.J. Hosty and junior Marek Hill. Hosty has previous experience, starting three games in the pandemic-abbreviated spring 2021 season
“Whoever shows the most consistency, that’s who the team is going to rely on [at quarterback],” Battaglia said.
Whoever takes control at quarterback will have a challenging task as the Friars lost their top two running backs (Danny Kent, Jacque Walls), top three receivers (Bryan Hunt, Eian Pugh, and Max Reese), and center Jimmy Liston to graduation. Senior tight end Patrick Durkin and senior offensive lineman Aaron Johnson are the offense’s only regular returnees.
There are also plenty of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. The Friars must replace their top three tacklers (Suleiman Abuaqel, Conor Paris and Martin Paris). Plus, there’s a new defensive coordinator as Nick Halkias takes over for Titcus Pettigrew, who’s now the defensive coordinator at Bolingbrook.
However, there are a few returnees on the line. Jaksic and classmate Conor Stetz are consistent disruptors up front, and sophomore Nate Marshall gave Fenwick a boost last year after being called up for the postseason.
The Friars will look to newcomers such as senior lineman Joep Engbers (transfer from IMG Academy in Florida), junior running back/defensive back Donnell French and senior wide receiver/defensive back Dennis Moore to help fill the holes on both sides of the ball.
Fenwick will feel the intensity from the get-go with a neutral-site affair Aug. 27 against crosstown rival Oak Park and River Forest High School at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview. It’s the first time since 1989 the Friars and Huskies have met on the football field.
“It’s a young crew, and they’ve got to learn how to be varsity players really fast,” Battaglia said.
August 27 – vs. OPRF (SeatGeek Stadium)
September 2 – THORNWOOD
September 9 – PROVIDENCE CATHOLIC
September 16 – at De La Salle
September 24 – at Loyola Academy
September 30 – MARMION ACADEMY
October 7 – at St. Patrick (Triton College)
October 14-15 – OPEN
October 21 – ST. IGNATIUS
(home games at Triton College in CAPS)