By Marty Farmer
Different color, same result.
During the past two seasons, the Fenwick High School football team had to go through De La Salle en route to winning a couple of Chicago Catholic League White Division titles. This year, the Friars and Meteors have relocated to the CCL Green. The rivals squared off Saturday afternoon at Concordia University in River Forest with Fenwick emerging a 35-30 winner in an offensive shootout.
"This win definitely sets a precedent," Fenwick linebacker Mike Krecek said. "Hopefully Fenwick will be able to run the Green for a long time. We just have to stay on the path and keep going strong."
After a tough loss to Bishop Lynch from Dallas in Week 2, Fenwick head coach Gene Nudo is just happy to come away with a win.
"I don't know if I can take many more of these kinds of games," Nudo said. "We knew that we really were in for a dogfight today. De La Salle is a pretty big, formidable team. [De La Salle] Coach [Mike] Boehm is doing a nice job laying down a strong foundation for that program.
As for his team, Nudo loved seeing the Friars take a positive step towards realizing their vast potential (particularly on offense).
"[Fenwick quarterback] Jack [Beneventi] got hot," Nudo said. "I think throwing off play-action, he was able to see the field a little bit better and our receivers made some fine catches.
"I've been anything but easy on Jack. I think it's hard when you're getting banged on all the time. You know quarterbacks are a different breed. I hold Jack to a higher level, and some of those balls he threw today are as good as you're going to see."
Indeed, the highly-regarded Beneventi, who transferred to Fenwick from Benet this year, completed 17 of 29 passes for 286 yards and five touchdown passes and no picks in his best performance as a Friar. Defensively, Mike Krecek (18 tackles), Scott Stibich (8 tackles) Chris Hawthorne, Harry Bell, Pat Rafferty (five tackles, interception) and Ryan Pierson (interception) all made big plays for Fenwick.
Tied at 21-21 late in the third quarter, the Iowa-bound Beneventi connected on a 73-yard touchdown pass to Pat Donahue (six catches, 105 yards) and also a 30-yard touchdown pass to Joe Buzinski (four catches, 75 yards) over seven minutes of play to trigger the win. Donahue also ran 19 times for 60 yards.
"I thought this was a great week for us, especially coming off a loss," Beneventi said. "It shows we're able to battle back for some adversity. I couldn't be happier with our receivers today and my offensive line gave me all the time in the world. And Pat Donahue is such a hard-nosed kid as our lead running back. Everybody performed really well."
De La Salle did not go down easily, however, as senior kicker David Dominguez nailed a 19-yard field goal for the Meteors to draw within 28-24 with 8:06 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fenwick junior Will Lattner had a 44-yard return, which coupled with a De La Salle personal foul, put the Friars in scoring position. On the next play, Beneventi lofted a 30-yard pass which Buzinski leaped high over a defender to haul down in spectacular fashion for a 35-24 Friars' lead at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter.
With 31.2 seconds remaining in the game, De La Salle quarterback Tom Duddleston fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donald Gardner, who like Buzinski made a sensational catch with both arms outstretched to catch the ball. The Meteors failed on the two-point conversion, with Fenwick clinging to a 35-30 advantage.
De La Salle attempted an onside kick which was recovered by the Friars' John Showell. Hawthorne, one of the premier defensive linemen in the Chicago Catholic League, almost made several critical tackles down the stretch.
"I thought the play of the game for us defensively was when [Hawthorne] had a huge tackle on a screen pass," Krecek said. "He's a workhorse. Chris comes in every day and does his work like nobody's business. That's the kind of guy we need throughout the team. He's a leader for sure, even though he's a quiet guy.
"We're definitely still learning [on defense]. We've been giving up points, but I feel like we're bending not breaking. As long as we keep learning, we'll be fine."
In the first half, the teams exchanged points back-and-forth en route to a 14-14 halftime score.
Duddleston struck first blood on a 72-yard pass play to Drew Chavarria which put the Meteors up 7-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter. Beneventi returned the favor on the first play of the second quarter when he tossed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Franklin Taylor (two catches 79 yards) to knot the score at 7-all.
Midway through the second quarter, Duddleston pitched the ball to Bryce Sutherland in the offensive backfield. Faking a run, Sutherland lofted a 38-yard pass to a wide open Ryan Seals for a touchdown and 14-7 De La Salle advantage. With 1:59 remaining until halftime, Beneventi rolled out right and hit running back Pat Donahue on a 7-yard touchdown pass to draw even at 14-14.
Fenwick (2-1, 1-0 CCL Green) visits Loyola next Saturday, Sep. 20. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.
Answer Book 2019
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