Playing before a huge home crowd that included Governor Pat Quinn and 48 members of the undefeated 1962 Fenwick football team which won the Prep Bowl, the current and clearly inspired Friars appeared well-positioned to upset St. Rita – at least for a half anyway – on Friday night.

Fenwick trailed the highly regarded Mustangs 10-7 at the intermission before St. Rita rattled off 21 unanswered points en route to a 38-15 victory at Hoffman Stadium on the Morton West campus.

In the first half, Fenwick missed a golden opportunity to take the lead. Linebacker Richie Lasek recovered a St. Rita fumble at the Mustangs’ 20-yard line. Two strong runs by the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Robert Spillane moved the ball down to the 1-yard line. On a third-and-goal, the Friars lost the ball which was promptly scooped up by St. Rita’s Jack Sears.

Ironically, a few minutes prior to the Friars’ costly turnover, Fenwick linebacker Pat Hart landed on a Mustangs fumble in their end zone for the Friars’ first score to pull within 10-7 at the 7:09 mark of the second quarter.

In the third quarter, St. Rita quarterback John Kelley (13-for-26, 179 yards) threw a pair of touchdown passes – a 12-yard fade route to Julian Crum and a 10-yard slant to Tom McCormick – to give the Mustangs some breathing room at 24-7.

After a three-and-out series from Fenwick to open the fourth quarter, Tim Lombard returned the ensuing punt 45 yards for another score and a 31-7 advantage for St. Rita (2-1).

The Friars made one final push on a five-play, 67-yard scoring drive capped off by quarterback Gino Cavalieri’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Donahue at the 9:43 mark of the fourth quarter. Cavalieri connected on a short pass to Bobby Somers for the two-point conversion, allowing Fenwick to pull within 31-15.

Fenwick got the ball right back via an onside kick, but failed on a fourth-and-five scenario, quickly stalling the rally bid. Four plays later, Guerby Ministre raced into the end zone from five yards out to finish off the Mustangs’ final drive, making the score 38-15 with 5:45 remaining in the Catholic League crossover matchup. The Mustangs’ stingy defense also picked off three Cavalieri passes in the second half.

“I don’t think we played as well as we were capable of,” Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said, “but St. Rita is an excellent team with great coaches and players. We aspire to be that kind of football team.”

Speaking of excellence, the aforementioned 1962 Fenwick football team, the only undefeated/untied football team in school history, celebrated its 50th anniversary at halftime. The ’62 Friars, who dismantled St. Rita 39-6 and shut out Schurz 40-0 at the Prep Bowl in front of 91,000 fans at Soldier Field, featured 20 players who played college football.

“It was huge having those guys at [tonight’s] game,” Hart said. “The Prep Bowl was a lot different back then than it is now. They are Fenwick guys with a lot of pride, and we wanted to play hard for them tonight.”

The Friars travel to Bishop McNamara on Friday (7:30 p.m.) to open up White Division play in the Catholic League.