The Fenwick High School football team was considered the underdog in the 92nd annual Chicago Prep Bowl final Nov. 25 against Chicago Public League champion Simeon, which has several top college prospects on its roster.
Yet the Chicago Catholic League champion Friars competed valiantly against the Wolverines and even took a late lead before falling 33-30 at Triton College and dropping its Prep Bowl final record to 4-6-1.
“It was an evenly matched game in a lot of ways,” said Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia. “Both sides made mistakes, but also a lot of plays.”
It took Simeon (12-1) just four plays to score on the opening possession as Malik Elzy caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Keshaun Parker to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
But Fenwick sophomore defensive back Jack Paris came up big on Simeon’s next possession, intercepting Parker and returning 21 yards to the Wolverines’ 37. Three plays later, quarterback Marek Hill found a wide-open Dennis Moore for a 5-yard touchdown reception, and Pat Durkin’s 2-point conversion gave the Friars an 8-7 lead.
Late in the quarter, Andre Crews’ 28-yard run on third and 8 from the Fenwick 31 set up his own 2-yard touchdown plunge to give Simeon the lead again. However, the extra point was blocked, leaving the score 13-8.
A Luke D’Alise interception then a defensive stop on a Simeon fake punt gave Fenwick the ball inside Wolverines’ territory on consecutive possessions to start the second quarter. But the Friars turned the ball over on downs both times and Crews made them pay with a 51-yard scoring dash over left tackle with 4:57 left in the half. The play gave Simeon a 19-8 lead.
Fenwick (7-6) took the second-half kickoff and marched 64 yards on eight plays to get back into the game. Hill’s 1-yard run on fourth and goal followed by kicker Luis Avalos’ point after brought the Friars to within 19-15 at the 8:49 mark of the third quarter.
But Simeon responded later in the third. After stopping Fenwick on downs, the Wolverines went 39 yards on seven plays to restore their 11-point lead as Cameron Ashley scored from four yards out on fourth and goal.
However, Fenwick refused to yield. Rowan White’s 41-yard reception off a deflected pass set up D’Alise’s 5-yard touchdown run. A 2-point conversion pass from Hill to Durkin cut the deficit to 26-23 with 10:49 left in regulation.
Elijah Romeus intercepted Parker on Simeon’s next possession and three plays later, Hill hit Moore with a short pass. Moore broke a couple of tackles and sprinted down the Fenwick sideline for a 63-yard touchdown and gave the Friars a 30-26 lead with 6:03 to go.
But it didn’t take long for Simeon to regain the lead for good. Crews caught a screen pass from Parker and dashed 48 yards down the left side for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:40 to go. Crews (28 carries, 156 yards, 3 total TD) was named Simeon’s Prep Bowl Most Valuable Player.
Fenwick attempted to rally once more as back-to-back 15-yard runs by D’Alise got the Friars to the Simeon 37. But the drive stalled, and Hill was sacked by Antwan Roquemore on fourth down with 2:34 left.
However, Fenwick held on defense and got the ball back on the Simeon 40 with 1:18 to go. Runs of 20 yards by D’Alise and 11 by Hill got the Friars close enough to attempt a game-tying field goal. But Avalos’ kick from 43 yards out drifted left as time expired.
“Luis gave it a great effort,” Battaglia said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump at the end.”
D’Alise, who plays both running back and linebacker, was named Fenwick’s Prep Bowl MVP. He ran for 161 yards (151 in the second half) and a touchdown on 21 carries and had two interceptions and 12 tackles on defense.
Hill threw 154 yards and two scores and ran for another, but he completed just 10 of 34 passes.
“There are a lot of things we could’ve done better,” Battaglia said. “But everyone competed and played hard, and we can build off of that for future seasons. Obviously, you don’t like to lose the last game. It’s bittersweet because we had a tough, hard-nosed senior class. They were great leaders.”
While Fenwick loses talented players such as Durkin, Moore, Joep Engbers, Aaron Johnson, Mirko Jaksic, and Conor Stetz to graduation, D’Alise, Hill, Paris, Romeus, Avion Brown, and Nate Marshall form a good core to build around. But rebuilding the offensive line is a priority this offseason
“We’re going to return starters at every position except for the offensive line. The line was all seniors,” Battaglia said.