The Fenwick High School football team finished 3-6 last season. Is a bounce-back season in store this fall? Head coach Gene Nudo is optimistic about a return to the postseason.
"I'm pleased with the development of our team," he said. "We're young and inexperienced in a lot of spots, but our enthusiasm has overcome our youth. We've got great senior leadership on this team. It's nice to have guys that want to be out there; our guys love playing football for Fenwick and we're excited about the team we're going to put on the field."
Senior Sean Carpenter is among the Friars' top returning players. An all-Catholic League selection last fall, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive tackle has embraced an increased leadership role.
"Sean has emerged into a position of leadership," Nudo said. "We've got nine sophomores on the varsity and there aren't many days where Sean doesn't drive by with four or five in his car. It's great to see the younger guys getting along with the older guys and vice versa. The older guys are teaching the ropes of how Fenwick kids are supposed to act."
The Friars return two other players who made all-Catholic League in 2018 – senior kicker/punter Bryan Dowd and senior strong safety/linebacker Tom Dvorak (46 tackles, 4 sacks in 2018).
"The other day in practice, Bryan hit a 35-yard field goal with his left foot. He's right-footed," Nudo said. "His leg has gotten stronger and he's going to be a weapon for us. He'll be able to flip the field."
The defense has a chance to be much improved thanks to more experience at linebacker and in the secondary. Seniors Solomon Singleton (18 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 1 interception) and Marc Thomas (18 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery) are speedy playmakers at cornerback.
Nudo feels senior free safety Greyson Cone is in store for a big year. Linebackers Danny Farnan (53 tackles, 4 tackles for loss) and Bryce Legan (46 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) provide a very physical presence in the middle. The defensive line will feature senior William O'Brien and sophomore Quin Wieties at ends, and Emmett Bonaccorsi at tackle.
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Kaden Cobb (6-3, 180) had a good offseason as he takes over as the starter this season. The left-handed Cobb, who was a starter on the basketball team last winter, has unlimited potential and a chance to develop into an elite leader.
"Kaden's done a good job. We're coming to him with a lot, but there's been no reason for us to tune it back at all," Nudo said. "He's got great field vision, and l think we'll be able to complement him with a very solid running game."
Junior Isaac Novak will get the starting nod at running back. He's quick to the hole and elusive.
"Isaac had a great offseason," Nudo said. "I'm pleased with the physicalness."
Sophomores Danny Kent and Jacque Walls will get carries as well. At 5-11, 238 pounds, fullback Kevin Frazier will be a solid lead blocker and occasional runner in the ground game.
Although lacking experience, the wide receiving corps will have plenty of length and depth. Senior Brian Moore grabbed nine receptions for 103 yards last season. Junior Jonas Capek saw varsity time as well. Top newcomers include sophomores Bryan Hunt and Eian Pugh (6-3, 170) and junior Nick Polston, who is also the reserve quarterback.
The skill positions will work behind a developing offensive line. Center Jimmy Liston started last year on the varsity as a freshman, while junior Jamie Moran was also pressed into service. The experience of Liston and Moran along with Carpenter should foster development of the entire unit, which will have two sophomores starting in 6-3, 330-pound guard Rasheed Anderson and Liston.
"They're all big kids so we'll look like a varsity line," Nudo said. "Jimmy had to come up to varsity out of necessity and took every snap as a freshman. He did a good job and is much improved this year."
The Friars hope to get off to a fast start. After opening at home against Curie and Dunbar, Fenwick will encounter an extremely difficult three-game stretch – at defending Class 7A champion Nazareth Academy, at defending 5A champion Joliet Catholic and home against 8A semifinalist Marist. If the Friars can survive that midseason gauntlet, the remaining schedule offers an opportunity to make a run at the postseason.
The football-only merger between the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference has created six divisions. Fenwick is in the CCL/ESCC White Division, along with defending Class 5A state champion Joliet Catholic, Marmion Academy and St. Ignatius. When the Friars visit the Hilltoppers Sept. 20, the division title will likely be at stake.
"St. Ignatius has beaten us the last two times," Nudo said. "Joliet Catholic is a defending state champion with a lot of guys back. Marmion is well-coached. It's a great conference and we're excited to be in it."
Nudo is wise to have a young team like the Friars focus on one week at a time. The approach should serve Fenwick well in 2019.
"We've got our challenge," Nudo said. "Everyone's talking about the meat grinder in the middle, but our focus right now is on Curie. We can't wait to take the field [Aug. 30] and show what we've got."
SCHEDULE (HOME GAMES IN CAPS - played at Triton College in River Grove):
*All games are Friday night, starting at 7:30 p.m.; except Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. vs. Leo (game played at St. Rita)
August 30 - CURIE
September 6 - DUNBAR
September 13 - at Nazareth Academy
September 20 - at Joliet Catholic
September 27 - MARIST
October 4 - MARMION ACADEMY
October 11 - ST. PATRICK
October 18 - at Leo
October 25 - at St. Ignatius
Answer Book 2019
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