The Fenwick football team played with tremendous heart and intensity during its 24-7 loss to Mt. Carmel, but perhaps it was only fitting the mighty Caravan prevailed Friday night at Gately Stadium.
After all, this has been a season in the highly competitive and often unpredictable Catholic League Blue Conference where Providence took out Brother Rice, who beat Fenwick, who defeated St. Rita, who knocked off Mt. Carmel, which bested Loyola. All six of these talented teams, have been ranked in either or both of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune Top 25 football polls, and qualified for the state playoffs.
“It’s all about the playoffs [now],” said Fenwick linebacker/tight end Patrick Doyle. “Unlike other leagues, when we get punched in the mouth we come back. Everyone in the Catholic League has respect for each other.”
The Friars, the sole representative of the Blue Division in the Class 6A playoffs, open postseason play against Hubbard at Gately Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m.).
As for taking on Mt. Carmel, Fenwick had the odds stacked a bit against them before and during the game. The host Caravan (8-1, 5-1) entered the game thoroughly motivated after a 7-6 loss to St. Rita the previous week. To complicate matters, Fenwick quarterback Brien Rooney was injured in the second half when he sprained his knee. He is listed as day to day for the playoffs.
“In the second half, we lost over 80 percent of our offensive capability,” Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio said, alluding to Rooney’s injury. “I’m proud of our guys. We played well. Mt. Carmel is really good. They just keep coming at you with relentless pressure.”
Defensively, the Friars held Mt. Carmel to seven points for 36 minutes, however the Caravan exploded for 17 points during the second quarter. Running behind an offensive line including 6-foot-3, 285-pound Boston College recruit Arthur Ray, the Caravan scored on a 3-yard run by Eric Ramirez (100 yards rushing) and a 19-yard pass from quarterback Carter Kopach to 6-4 wide receiver Pat Jarvis.
Trailing 7-0, the Friars’ Zack Skarzynski recovered a Mt. Carmel fumble on a punt deep in Caravan territory. Three plays later, Fenwick quarterback Dan Walsh connected with Newman Delany on a 30-yard pass. At the Mt. Carmel 4-yard line, Walsh completed the scoring drive on a touchdown pass to Delany. Pat Mulhern kicked the extra point to make it 7-7 with 6:55 left in the first half.
Other than a 1-yard touchdown run by Caravan running back Tim Brown, the second half was essentially a battle between two fast, physical defenses. Jack Finan, Nick Caldicott, Austin Gordon and Colin Tobin led the Fenwick defense, which forced two more fumbles.
Offensively, Walsh filled in admirably for Rooney while running backs Dan Mega (10 carries, 22 yards) and Tobin (10 yards rushing) struggled to penetrate the stingy Caravan front seven.
“We can always play better when you look back at a loss or even a win,” Tobin said. “This was a real good atmosphere for us to play in and a good tune up for the playoffs.”
The Friars (6-3, 3-3) will face an extremely difficult first round opponent in Hubbard. The Greyhounds (7-2) feature Robert Hughes, one of the top running backs in the country, and quarterback Sean Cattouse. In addition to great team speed, the Greyhounds offer size as well with Keith Otis (6-5, 315), Anthony Jones (6-4, 380), Andrew Thomas (6-1, 265) and Jordain Brown (6-3, 290).