Fenwick QB #17 EJ Hosty with a second quarter scramble. (Photo by Ian McLeod)

The Fenwick football team started its game, Oct. 21, at Triton College against St. Ignatius getting a three-and-out defensively and then scoring a touchdown on its first drive.

The Friars led for the majority of the contest, but a trick play against them late was the difference as the Wolfpack rallied for a stunning 26-21 victory. The win gave St. Ignatius the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference White Division championship.

“The team played their heart out,” said Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia. “[But] it’s a full-team loss. Special teams, offense, defense, all three units could’ve done one thing better to change the outcome.”

After forcing a punt on the game’s opening possession, Fenwick (5-4, 2-1 in CCL/ESCC White) marched 82 yards on 13 plays for the game’s first score. Sophomore Nate Marshall scored on a two-yard touchdown run, then added a two-point conversion run for a 8-0 Friars lead at the 5:34 mark of the opening quarter. 

St. Ignatius (7-2, 3-0) responded with a nine-play, 60-yard drive, capped by Vinny Rugai’s 17-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. But the extra point was blocked, leaving the score 8-6.

Luke D’Alise’s 2-yard touchdown run with eight seconds left in the half gave Fenwick a big boost and a 15-6 halftime lead. But the Friars lost momentum starting the second half when they went three-and-out offensively. It took just two plays for Ignatius to draw closer as Rugai’s 41-yard dash set up Thomas Bloss’ 25-yard touchdown that made the score 15-13 at 9:24 of the third quarter. 

Tony Tirado intercepted E.J. Hosty (6-of-18, 57 yards) on Fenwick’s next offensive play, and the Wolfpack was back in business at the Friars’ 45. But Will Gladden came up with a big play for Fenwick, picking off Jake Petrow. The Friars then went nine plays and 54 yards for a touchdown, with D’Alise (27 carries, 165 yards, 2 TDs) running in from four yards out. However, Luis Avalos missed the extra point, which would prove costly, leaving the score 21-13 with 58 seconds to go in the third.

St. Ignatius countered with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Petrow to Clement Carey. But the Wolfpack missed the two-point conversion to leave the score at 21-19 with 7:12 left.

After being forced to punt, Fenwick looked to be in position to put things away when a Rugai fumble was recovered by Elijah Romeus on his 48 with 4:48 left. But the Friars lost yardage on the subsequent possession and an 11-yard punt gave Ignatius excellent field position at the 50 with 3:32 left.

Rugai ran for 20 yards. Then on 3rd and 17 from the Fenwick 37, Petrow completed a short pass to Carey at the 28. Carey tossed backward to Bloss at the 30, and Bloss dashed to the house from there. The hook-and-ladder stunned Fenwick fans and gave the Wolfpack a 26-21 lead with 1:19 left.

“That was a great play call,” Battaglia said.

The Friars had one final shot at a win and advanced to their 39 on two plays. But after a pair of incompletions, Jalen Williams, their normally reliable wide receiver, dropped consecutive passes. The first might have gone for a score with 42 seconds left. The second, which would’ve been a first down after Hosty scrambled out of trouble on 4th and 10, came with :32 to go and resulted in a turnover on downs that sealed Fenwick’s fate.

“There’s going to be a time where Jamal’s going to come down with that catch and we win the game,” Battaglia said. “We’re going to keep his head up.”

In addition to his fumble recovery and four tackles on defense, Romeus had four receptions for 51 yards. D’Alise also had four tackles and Avion Brown three tackles. 

With the regular season over, Fenwick now turns its attention to the IHSA state playoffs. The Friars are seeded 15th in the Class 5A North Bracket and will meet #2 Morgan Park at Gately Stadium in Chicago, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m.

“We played them last year and a lot of their kids have returned,” Battaglia said. “They’re going to be a tough opponent. We need to play a full game on all three levels.”

York 34, OPRF 8

Oak Park and River Forest High School’s hopes of getting into the IHSA playoffs were dashed, Oct. 20, with a 34-8 loss to York at Oak Park Stadium.

“You can hold good teams, but eventually they’re going to wear you down and something’s going to break,” said OPRF coach John Hoerster. “We hung around for a while, but then some mistakes happened and York took advantage of those. But our kids fought hard against a really good team.”

After a scoreless first 12 minutes, York (9-0, 6-0 in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division) took control with a 17-point second quarter. Cameron Bialecki kicked a 39-yard field goal, then Kelly Watson had back-to-back scores: a two-yard run, followed by a 14-yard reception from Matt Vezza (27-of-38, 281 yards, and three TDs passing, plus 53 yards rushing on 10 carries). The Dukes, who clinched their first outright WSC Silver title since 2006, as well as their first perfect nine-game regular season in history, took a 17-0 halftime lead.

York continued its domination in the second half as Vezza threw two more touchdowns for 20 and 34 yards to Luke Mailander. Bialecki added a 21-yard field goal.

OPRF (4-5, 1-5) averted the shutout with 1:04 left in the game when Jack Gooch (11-of-21, 49 yards) found Ryan Martin for a two-yard touchdown. The duo also connected for the two-point conversion. 

The Huskies were outgained 417-120 and managed just eight first downs for the evening, with five coming on their final drive. Sam Gray led OPRF defensively with nine tackles, while Khalil Nichols added seven tackles and Carnel Johnson five.

“You always want to have another week and give yourself a shot in the playoffs, but it didn’t happen for us this year,” Hoerster said. 

The Huskies will lose numerous players to graduation, including Gooch, Martin, four-year varsity starter Cole Robertson, recent University of St. Thomas commit Kole Sneed, Eric Evans, and Tim Spillane. But the return of players like Gray, Nichols, Jacob Bickem, Lemer Burnett, and Kaden Garland provides a solid foundation to build on in 2023.

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