In this era of spread offenses in football, St. Ignatius uses a style that isn't played much at the high school level - the classic triple-option. It's the type of offense that is hard for defenses used to spread formations to adjust to, especially in a short period of time.
The triple-option is well-suited for wet, rainy and windy conditions that were experienced at Triton College on November 17 when Fenwick hosted the Wolfpack. Executing its offense to near-flawless perfection - while dominating both lines of scrimmage – St. Ignatius defeated the Friars 35-0.
St. Ignatius (10-3) advances to the Prep Bowl, while Fenwick's season ended with a final 7-5 record.
"(St. Ignatius) executed their offense well," Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said. "They did what they had to do. We tried to simulate their offense in practice, but it was very hard. They came off the ball well. Defensively, they stopped us. They beat us in all facets of the game."
After stopping the Friars' first drive on the Wolfpack's 9-yard line, St. Ignatius went on a 91-yard march capped by Campbell Callam's 3-yard touchdown run. Inigo Curran added the PAT to stake the Wolfpack to a 7-0 lead at the 1:01 mark of the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, Giorgio Arquilla increased St. Ignatius' lead to 14-0 with a 2-yard TD run.
On Fenwick's next drive, senior running back Jason Ivery burst over left tackle for a 28-yard run into Wolfpack territory. However, the Friars would turn the ball over on downs, as St. Ignatius took the 14-0 lead into halftime.
On the first play of the second half, Arquilla broke open for a 62-yard run to the Friars' 18. This helped set up Arquilla's second TD run, from 5 yards out. Curran's extra point boosted the Wolfpack lead to 21-0.
Fenwick's Joe Rafferty partially blocked a St. Ignatius punt to set up the Friars in excellent field position on the Wolfpack 15 with five minutes left in the third quarter. The Friars got to the 4-yard line, but then quarterback Danny Cronin was sacked on back-to-back plays. A fourth down pass to Michael O'Laughlin in the end zone was ruled out of bounds, resulting in a turnover on downs.
On the ensuing drive, St. Ignatius put the game away. Quarterback Quinn Donath's 62-yard keeper set up his touchdown run from five yards out to raise the score to 28-0 after three quarters.
Callam concluded the scoring with a 6-yard TD run with 4:25 remaining in the game.
For the Friars, Friday's loss served as a difficult end to an expectation-filled season. The Friars' goal was to finish the job that was shocking and unfairly halted in a controversial 7A semifinal loss to Plainfield North last season.
This season started off in a quirky fashion with a forfeit win over Bowen, which meant Fenwick didn't make its 2017 on-field debut until Week 2, a 24-0 shutout of Moline. The rest of the season was an up-and-down ride, with the Friars posting solid wins over Leo, Marmion, and St. Francis, but also suffering humbling losses to Montini, Loyola, and Providence.
At the start of the season, the reigning Chicago Catholic Green champions weren't pegged to win another title. An exciting 31-28 win over De La Salle earned the Friars a share of the conference title with Montini.
Closing out the regular season with a pair of impressive victories, the Friars entered the Class s7A playoffs with confidence.
Unfortunately, the Friars title dreams were dashed with a 35-7loss at Wheaton North in the first round of the 7A playoffs.
Despite the unpredictability of the Friars' fortunes this season, several players had stellar seasons. Senior wide receiver Michael O'Laughlin, who will play college football at West Virginia next year, earned All-State recognition for the second consecutive season. Jason Ivery made a smooth transition from defense to offense. He rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. Senior offensive tackle anchored an offensive line that progressively improved. And while sophomore quarterback Danny Cronin had some rough moments as a first-year starter, he showed that he plenty of talent to become a good college prospect. The best is likely yet to come for Cronin.
Defensively, sophomore Jacob Kaminski had another great season, serving as a disruptive force on the line. Max Forst and Thomas Hogan also had good seasons upfront. Senior linebacker Joe Rafferty made plays all over the field. Seniors Lorente and Lorenzano Blakeney provided good run support and supplied a physical presence from the secondary. Freshman Jalen Bates showed great promise at cornerback.
Looking forward to 2018, Cronin and Lucas Kolovitz will lead the way offensively, while Bates, Kaminski, and Solomon Singleton are good building blocks for the defense.
Although Fenwick loses a lot of talent, there seems to be reinforcement in the program via the returning varsity players and underclassmen.
Nudo hopes that the returning players can learn from the departing seniors, whom he praised.
"They were a hard-working, fun-loving group," he said. "They truly liked each other and gave it their best every day. They did things no one thought they would accomplish."
The Friars could experience a steep learning curve early next season, but another competitive team under the guidance of the accomplished Nudo is probable.