It's better to have an ugly win instead of a pretty loss.
That was certainly the case Friday night for the Fenwick High School football team which defeated Moline 24-7 in a nonconference game. After all, this was the first time the Friars played a game this season (last week's opener against Bowen was a forfeit win), whereas the Maroons were coming off a Week 1 loss to DeKalb.
"They (Moline) had an advantage, having played last week", Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said. "We could have played better and we left a lot on the field. The offense gave (Moline) its only points, which was a shame".
But whenever a team gets an ugly win, perseverance and resilience are the keys. All things considered, Nudo was pleased with his team's effort.
"I'm very proud of our guys, we had a bunch of different guys step up," Nudo said.
Moline won the coin toss but decided to defer to the second half, so Fenwick received the ball to begin the game. Sophomore Danny Cronin got the start at quarterback and was sacked on his very first play - an inauspicious beginning to be sure.
However, after going three-and-out he would immediately get a mulligan as the Maroons muffed the punt and Dan Stein recovered for the Friars on the Moline 18. Three plays later, Cronin scored on a 6-yard keeper. Bryan Dowd added the extra point to give Fenwick a 7-0 lead with 8:11 left in the opening quarter.
The Friars' defense got a three-and-out on Moline's first possession and after the punt the offense got good field position on the Fenwick 44. Cronin led a 6-play, 56-yard drive in just over three minutes that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass to Michael O'Laughlin. Dowd's second extra point made it 14-0 Friars with 4:06 left in the 1st quarter.
O'Laughlin was impressed with how the offense played overall, particularly with Cronin.
"Danny did great, he kept his composure when other guys his age might have panicked", O'Laughlin said. "He had an interception and lost a fumble, but he didn't worry about it and was on top of everything."
George Lagios, Fenwick's other quarterback, came in on the Friars' next offensive possession. He showed his nifty running ability with a 7-yard keeper and made some nice throws, but Fenwick didn'tscore on the drive. In fact, neither team scored during the rest of the first half as the defenses took over.
Senior linebacker Joe Rafferty thwarted a late Moline drive that penetrated deep in Friar territory with an interception of Maroons' QB Eric Maffie - one of two he had on the night. The teams went to halftime with Fenwick leading 14-0.
Moline received the ball to start the second half, but on the Maroons' second play Rafferty recorded his second interception and returned it to the Moline 19. But the Friars couldn't get in the end zone, settling for Dowd's 28-yard field goal which increased Fenwick's lead to 17-0.
Thomas Hogan, who had a stellar night, sacked Maffie for a 22-yard loss on the next possession. The subsequent punt gave the Friars excellent field position on the Moline 45.
Cronin led Fenwick to the Maroons' 5-yard line, but then he was intercepted by Moline's Malique Wilson, who returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. The extra point cut Fenwick's lead to 17-7 with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Undaunted, Cronin led the offense deep into Maroons' territory on the next drive. But on the second play of the fourth quarter, he fumbled the snap on first-and-goal at the Moline 5-yard line and the Maroons recovered. The teams exchanged defensive stops, and Fenwick would eventually tack on one more touchdown - a 5-yard pass from Cronin to Jason Ivery with 2:52 left in the game. Dowd's third extra point gave the Friars a 24-7 lead and conclude the scoring.
"Danny had a great camp. He and George were neck-and-neck and still are quite frankly. I just felt Danny protected the ball a little better during camp", Nudo explained about the decision to start Cronin. "George threw the ball well tonight but was the victim of a couple of unfortunate drops. Overall, I thought both executed very well.
"Defensively, we played very well. Kaminski had another great game and Rafferty had a couple of picks. The guys we expected to be our leaders performed and did a good job".
Indeed, the Friars had a very strong game defensively as the Maroons were held to 81 yards on offense.
O'Laughlin added, "Our offensive line played well, but we need to work on strengthening our running game."
Next week, Fenwick opens Catholic League Green play at Montini. It will be a challenging game on the road to be sure. Game time is 7:30 on Friday, Sept. 8 in Lombard.
"Montini is a traditionally great program," Nudo said. "We look forward to playing them and it will be a fun night".
O'Laughlin also looks forward to matching up against the Broncos.
"They're a great team with great coaching," he said. "Every single facet - offense, defense, special - matters in a big game. We'll be ready."