By Marty Farmer
Statistically, the Fenwick High School football team more than held its own against Chicago Catholic League Green Division rival Montini on Friday, Sept. 8 in Lombard. The Friars had more rushing yards than the Broncos (193-156), total yards offense (325-301), first downs (15-12) and time of possession (26:45-21:15).
Nevertheless, Montini took the early inside track to the CCL Green title via a 28-7 win. The teams matched up closer than the final score indicated; however, the Friars' lack of execution, three turnovers, shaky special teams play, and a knack for giving up big plays proved too much to overcome against the Broncos.
"The Fenwick-Montini rivalry reminds of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry," Fenwick defensive lineman Michael Leopold said. "We hate each other, but we also respect each other. It's always fun to play Montini because we have good games."
Fenwick sophomore quarterback Danny Cronin added: "I've always looked for the Montini game on the schedule and circled the date. It's a great rivalry so I'm disappointed to see them move out of our conference."
Next season, Montini will join the CCL Blue and Mount Carmel will replace the Broncos in the CCL Green.
Trailing 14-0 with four minutes left until halftime, Fenwick scored its lone touchdown on sophomore quarterback Danny Cronin's 23-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-6, 225-pound wide receiver Michael O'Laughlin. It was a brilliant catch by the West Virginia-bound O'Laughlin, who dove into the end zone and made a two-handed catch to cap off an 11-play, 82-yard drive and make the score 14-7.
After Montini tacked on two touchdowns, extending its lead to 28-7, the Friars mustered one last scoring threat early in the fourth quarter. Cronin completed consecutive passes of 16 and 35 yards to O'Laughlin and senior running back Jason Ivery ran 21 yards up the middle to set up the Friars at the Montini 8-yard line.
Two plays later, Ivery scored on a 3-yard run, but the touchdown was negated due to a false start penalty by Fenwick. Montini defensive end Jalen Slater ensured the Friars stayed out the end zone by sacking Cronin twice to quell any hopes of a second-half comeback.
Montini built its lead, courtesy of a pair of TD runs by senior running back Jake Karczewski (1, 3 yards in first half), quarterback Nicholas Orlando's 72-yard TD pass to Mitch West and a 1-yard keeper by Orlando at 10:43 of the third quarter.
Led by Orlando, Karczewski and Nick Fedanzo, the Broncos' running game performed well against Fenwick's stout defensive line. The elusive Orlando was particularly problematic for the Friars.
Slater (3 sacks) spearheaded the Montini defense which pressured Cronin on a regular basis. In addition to his lone TD reception, the playmaking West had two interceptions for the Broncos.
Cronin finished 8-for-17 passing for 134 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Ivery had 22 carries for 136 yards and O'Laughlin caught five passes for 132 yards.
"We played well but there is a lot of room for improvement," Cronin said. "We made too many mistakes. Even with those mistakes, I think we were still in the game."
The Friars were effective on offense until they reached scoring territory.
"We were moving the ball well but struggled in the red zone," Cronin added. "On two occasions we got inside Montini's 10-yard line and couldn't punch it in. Offensively, we need to work on finishing drives and coming away with points."
Defensively, sophomore defensive end Jacob Kaminski recorded 6.5 tackles and Jalen Bates added 5.5 tackles and caused a fumble.
"We struggled with some minor blown assignments on defense and some turnovers on defense against Montini," Leopold said. "We are the type of team to fix our mistakes and get back at it next week. We need to have a good week of practice and play hard on Friday against Leo. We need a bounce back win to put us at 3-1 for the season."
Montini (2-1, 1-0 CCL Green) and Marmion (3-0, 1-0) share the early lead in conference, with Fenwick (2-1, 0-1) and St. Francis (1-2, 0-1) trailing by a game.
"The season definitely got off to a weird start with the forfeit from Bowen," Kaminski said. "It was a bit of a disappointment because the entire team was looking forward to hitting the field. It really set us back behind everybody else getting that first game out of the way.
"With the two games we played so far it seems that we are still trying to work out a few kinks in our game. We're still finding our footing, especially with such a young team. There's lots of room for improvement along with plenty of potential."
Fenwick hosts Leo on Friday, Sept. 15 at Triton College in River Grove. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
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