Featuring seven teams that made the IHSA state playoffs last season, this year’s schedule is daunting for the Fenwick High School football team.
But the Friars are eager to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
“Iron sharpens iron,” said Fenwick senior quarterback Marek Hill. “We consider ourselves to be a good team.”
Hill enters his first full year as starting quarterback. Following Fenwick’s first-round elimination from the IHSA Class 5A state playoffs, a 14-6 loss to Morgan Park, he took over from E.J. Hosty and guided the Friars to the Chicago Prep Bowl title game, which they lost to Simeon 33-30.
“Marek’s doing a great job. He worked his butt off during the offseason,” said Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia, now in his fourth season. “He’s improved in all areas.”
Hill has plenty of receiving options, as seniors Mike Caccitolo, Elijah Romeus, Rowan White and Jalen Williams along with junior Andrew Bjorson all return.
When the Friars run the ball, Luke D’Alise figures to be the main man. In last year’s Prep Bowl, he rushed for 161 yards (151 in the second half) and a touchdown on 21 carries.
“This offseason, I’ve been training at running back,” D’Alise said. “I love scoring touchdowns, but I also love making plays on defense.”
A two-way standout, D’Alise also recorded 12 tackles and picked off two passes against Simeon in being voted Fenwick’s Prep Bowl Most Valuable Player. He’s joined in the linebacker corps by senior Dillon Murphy.
The Friars have a solid secondary led by seniors Avion Brown and Donnell French and junior Jack Paris. Sophomore Tommy Thies should provide further depth.
Up front, junior Nate Marshall returns after an outstanding sophomore campaign which drew the attention of several top college programs. He has received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State and Wisconsin among others.
Marshall, who scored several touchdowns last year as a quarterback in the wildcat formation, has changed jersey numbers. He now wears No. 9, instead of the 90 worn his first two seasons.
“Players love wearing single digits, and Nate is one who’s earned that number,” Battaglia said. “He’s done a great job keeping everything in perspective. There’s a lot of national recruiting stuff going on with Nate, but honestly, you wouldn’t be able to tell at practice. He carries himself well.”
Fenwick fell 35-7 to crosstown rival Oak Park and River Forest High School at SeatGeek Stadium last year in the schools’ first meeting since 1989. The Friars say they have been looking forward to the rematch, which is Aug. 26 at Triton College. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
“We lost last year in embarrassing fashion. This year, we’ve got to defend our home field,” said Hill, an Oak Park resident.
Fenwick doesn’t get a breather after OPRF. In fact, the Friars’ opponents get tougher. Other non-conference games see Fenwick visit Providence Catholic (Class 4A finalist last year) and St. Ignatius (8A semifinalist) while Mount Carmel (7A champion) comes to Triton.
Then there’s the matter of conference play. This season, the Friars are in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Orange Division, which features two defending state champions (Immaculate Conception in 3A, Nazareth Academy in 5A) and another team (Wheaton-St. Francis) that was a 4A semifinalist.
2023 Fenwick schedule
Aug. 26 vs. OPRF, 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 at St. Ignatius, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Providence Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs. WHEATON-ST. FRANCIS 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. NILES-NOTRE DAME, 7:30 p.m.
Sept.29 at Nazareth Academy 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs. MOUNT CARMEL 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 at DePaul Prep 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Immaculate Conception, 7:30 p.m.
(Home games in CAPS at Triton College)