For the second consecutive year, the Fenwick High School football team will play in the season’s final week.

While the Friars’ defense of their IHSA Class 5A state title ended with a first-round 14-6 loss of Morgan Park, the team has bounced back with consecutive victories in the Chicago Prep Bowl playoffs, defeating St. Laurence 30-18 on a frigid evening Nov. 17 to win the Chicago Catholic League championship.

“It wasn’t that bad at first, but after a couple of hours it started feeling cold,” said Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia.

Things started in inauspicious fashion for Fenwick (7-5) as St. Laurence recovered a muffed opening kickoff on the Friars’ 33. But the defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Vikings on downs, and it took the offense just five plays to hit paydirt as Marek Hill connected with Dennis Moore for a 48-yard touchdown pass. Nate Marshall added a 2-point conversion to give Fenwick an 8-0 lead at the 7:47 mark of the opening quarter.

“We didn’t freak out,” Battaglia said. “We continued to take things one play at a time. That’s been the biggest positive this season.”

The Friars broke the game open in the second quarter. Hill found Pat Durkin for a 4-yard touchdown, followed by another 2-point conversion by Marshall. On the next possession, Hill’s 73-yard completion to Rowan White set up his third touchdown pass, a 23-yarder to Luke D’Alise.

“Marek did a great job operating the offense,” Battaglia said. “He made some good reads and tough throws into a stiff wind during the second quarter.”

Late in the half, Mirko Jaksic intercepted a screen pass and nearly took it to the house, rumbling down to the St. Laurence 2. Two plays later, Marshall went in standing up from a yard out to give Fenwick a commanding 30-0 halftime lead.

“We’ve got a lot of linemen who’ve been busting their butts and getting overlooked,” Battaglia said. “We want to make sure they carry the ball and share in the glory.”

Up next for the Friars is the Prep Bowl title game versus Chicago Public League champion Simeon on Nov. 25 at Triton College. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.

The Wolverines, who defeated Taft 38-34 on Nov. 18, are 11-1 and feature wide receiver Malik Elzy, one of the state’s top senior prospects, as well as junior running back Andre Crews, who has amassed multiple 200-yard games this season.

Fenwick seeks its fifth Prep Bowl championship.

“We take it as an honor to play in the [Prep Bowl],” said Battaglia. “It’s my first go-around with it, and it’s something that I’m glad is still going on between the Catholic and Public Leagues. I hope after experiencing it, more schools will value it and want to get back.”

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