Mt. Carmel 49
Mt. Carmel wasn’t in a very hospitable mood welcoming Fenwick back into the tough Catholic League Blue Division during a 49-14 win at Toyota Park in Bridgeview on Friday.
The game between storied football programs – which drew over 2,800 fans – also marked a reunion of sorts between the Caravan and their coach Frank Lenti. He served a two-game suspension due to violation of an IHSA recruiting bylaw.
“Coach Frank makes our offense run a little smoother because he has been running it for 26 years,” Mt. Carmel quarterback Chris Sujka said. “Fenwick played hard, but we work hard in practice and it showed.”
The Friars (1-2) were the home team, but the Caravan felt comfortable early after scoring the game’s first 21 points. Senior running back Denzel Thompson (10 carries, 85 yards) provided the damage on a pair of touchdown runs from three and 15 yards out and tossing a 29-yard halfback touchdown pass to Jack Sherlock at the 6:46 mark of the second quarter.
Fenwick responded with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped off by Bret Strelczyk’s 3-yard touchdown run to whittle the deficit to 21-7 with 2:36 left until halftime. The Friars’ first score was set up when quarterback Joe Romano (16-for-29, 180 yards) completed an 11-yard rollout pass to Xavier Vergara on a fourth-and-three at the Caravan 14.
With momentum ostensibly on their side, the Friars fumbled the ball away on a bad exchange between Romano and Strelczyk (4 carries, 57 yards) inside the Fenwick 5-yard line to open the second half. The next play, Milton Greer busted into the end zone on a 5-yard run, extending the Mt. Carmel advantage to 28-7.
“Joe and I just ran into each other,” Strelcyzk said. “They scored and it took the wind out of us. We can’t let stuff like that happen. The score shouldn’t have been like that because we played them a lot tougher.”
Mt. Carmel (3-0) reeled off 21 unanswered points to build a 49-7 lead with 9:23 left in the game. The Caravan finished with 370 yards of total offense compared to Fenwick’s 308. The only problem area for Mt. Carmel was penalties. The nationally-ranked team committed 10 for 100 yards.
“Mt. Carmel is a very talented team,” Fenwick offensive/defensive lineman Jack Dittmer said. “They have good [running] backs, a good offensive line and are very well coached. We just have to put this game behind us. It’s Blue Division, baby, no time to take a week off.”
With under a minute to play, Romano scored on a 1-yard keeper.
“We have a powerful offense,” Strelczyk said. “When we click, like we did in the second half against Notre Dame [20-17 Week 2 loss], we get after it.”
Before kickoff, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn spoke during a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Johnny Lattner, a fellow Fenwick graduate and 1953 Heisman Trophy winner, participated in the honorary coin flip.
“It’s a great feeling and an honor to be out there,” Lattner said. “The rivalry between Fenwick and Mt. Carmel has always been tremendous. It’s fun to come out and be involved.”
The Friars visit St. Rita on Friday (7:30 p.m.).