With strong-armed quarterback Gino Cavalieri and dangerous playmakers like wide receivers Rich Schoen and Jimmy Donahue along with 6-5, 242-pound tight end Ryan Smith in the aerial mix, it’s no secret the Fenwick football team possesses big-play capability via the passing game. As head coach Gene Nudo likes to succinctly say about Cavalieri, “Gino can sling it.”

However, the true catalyst for the Friars’ offense is clearly senior running back Robert Spillane. The 6-3, 225-pound running back provided a powerful reminder of his game-dominating ability during the Friars’ 28-6 win against Hersey at Elmhurst College in Friday’s opening round of the Class 7A playoffs. Spillane scored on touchdown runs of one yard and two yards in the first quarter against the Huskies, setting a smash-mouth tone for the Friars’ offensive attack.

Spillane’s opening touchdown occurred at 8:39 of the first quarter on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. His 2-yard touchdown run happened with 3:37 left in the first quarter.

Fenwick dominated Hersey along the line of scrimmage all evening, as Spillane finished with 250 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. He added his third score on a 26-yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter.

“I really have to thank my linemen,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten a yard tonight.”

The Friars controlled the clock, rushing 48 times for 301 yards.

“We really stuck to our game plan,” Spillane said. “We wanted to run the rock and show our dominance. Our game plan was to play very physical football throughout the entire game.”

Cavalieri (6-for-16, 93 yards passing) connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Donahue at 6:27 of the second quarter, extending the Friars’ lead to 21-6. Hersey whittled the deficit to 14-6 when quarterback Jack Warner tossed a 15-yard scoring strike to Mario Thomas earlier in the second quarter. Seeded 13th in the Class 7A bracket, the Huskies finished 6-4 this season.

“Hersey runs the ball well and throws the ball well, so they leave you guessing,” Nudo said. “Our guys did well, and we came out of the game healthy. And we won, that’s the most important thing.”

Defensively, senior defensive back /safety Rich Schoen recovered a fumble and had an interception (both in the fourth quarter) to keep the Huskies at bay. Jack Rafferty (seven tackles), Mike Kozyra (five tackles), Scott Stibich (four tackles), Harry Bell (1 ½ sacks) and Justin Rodriguez (sack) also led the Friars’ ball-hawking style of play.

Spillane expressed almost as much admiration for the job Friar Nation did off the field as the Fenwick between the lines.

“Our fans are awesome,” he said. “It’s a good feeling when you have the ball and you hear a full crowd. It was great to have them here.”

Fenwick (9-1), the No. 4 seed in 7A, hosts fifth-seeded Wheaton North (8-2) on Saturday (7 p.m.) at Elmhurst College in an intriguing second round showdown. The Falcons routed Glenbrook North 53-7 on Friday. Fenwick will need to contain Wheaton North’s outstanding quarterback Clayton Thorson, a Northwestern recruit.

“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Nudo said. “[Wheaton North] is a great program and it’s nice to be competing with that kind of team.”

Spillane added: “We’ve still got work to do. We have a very serious job and that’s going all the way to a state championship title.”