Fenwick and Bishop Lynch high schools have a lot in common. They share the same mascot, fight song and school colors. In fact, Dominican priests, formerly at Fenwick founded Bishop Lynch in Dallas back in 1963.
On Saturday, the schools renewed their recently developed, good-natured rivalry on the Concordia University football field in River Forest. The Friars (from Bishop Lynch) earned a measure of revenge with a 35-32 victory over Fenwick.
Last year, Fenwick traveled to Dallas and beat Bishop Lynch [32-14] in the first of a two-game series to celebrate the latter’s 50th anniversary.
Fenwick (1-1) appeared well positioned to get the better of Bishop Lynch again when senior quarterback Jack Beneventi threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Pat Donahue, giving Fenwick a 32-27 lead with 2:35 left in the game. Beneventi, in his second start since transferring from Benet Academy, completed 11 of 31 passes for 126 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Five plays later, however, Arkansas-bound running back Rawleigh Williams III battled through the line of scrimmage and scampered 54 yards for the decisive touchdown to put Bishop Lynch up 35-32 with 1:23 remaining. He finished with 187 yards on 34 carries. Williams III missed last year’s game against Fenwick due to injury.
“I’ve been waiting for this game for over a year,” Willliams III said. “It hurt me to see our team lose to Fenwick last year on our home field and 50th anniversary. It was a great experience coming up here.
“We knew [Fenwick] was going to crowd the box, so we ran some counters which worked well. I was cramping in the second half and didn’t know what was going on at times, but I just prayed to God to help me. I was going to do whatever it takes to get this win.”
Fenwick began its final possession at its own 46 with 1:21 left, but three incomplete passes and a sack by Bishop Lynch linebackers Gabe Brace and Jake Sikorski quelled any hope of a last-minute comeback.
Bishop Lynch controlled the action early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead, courtesy of linebacker Zach Russell’s 15-yard return for a touchdown after Beneventi fumbled the ball on a sack, and a short touchdown run by Williams III plus a two-point conversion via a pass from quarterback Tristan Smith to Joe Gannon.
Midway through the second quarter, Fenwick responded with an 8-play, 45-yard scoring drive, capped by a 10-yard screen pass from Beneventi to Donahue to make it 14-7. For the second consecutive week, Donahue turned in a solid performance with 141 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing).
Smith struck again on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ini Akpabot, extending the Bishop Lynch lead to 20-7 at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter.
“We were down 20-7 but our kids battled back,” Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said. “Williams was a tough back to hold down and their quarterback [Smith] made plays.”
Trailing 20-7 at halftime, Fenwick scored a pair of touchdowns within the first four minutes of the third quarter to draw even at 20-all. Donahue (22 carries 95 yards) busted into the end zone from three yards out and Beneventi connected with senior wide receiver Franklin Taylor on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
With the Fenwick defense keying on Bishop Lynch’s Williams III, Smith ran a delayed misdirection play for 72 yards into the end zone to give the visitors a 27-20 lead.
“We have to clean some stuff up and work on our technique,” Fenwick defensive lineman Chris Hawthorne said. “We gave up too many big runs. I know we can play much better. We’re going to work harder than we ever have this week to get ready for De La Salle.”
Fenwick junior fullback Adam Williams scored on a 3-yard run with 1:45 left in the third quarter, but kicker Mike Cahill missed the extra point to preserve Bishop Lynch’s 27-26 advantage.
With the outcome looking bleak for the host Friars, junior cornerback Pat Rafferty picked off a Smith pass and returned it 47 yards to the Bishop Lynch 13 in the closing minutes. Two plays later, Beneventi threw the pass to Donahue that put Fenwick ahead 32-27 with 2:35 to go in regulation. Suddenly, a Fenwick victory seemed probable.
Of course, the explosive Williams III had other plans. During his clutch game-winning run, he almost fumbled a few times but managed to hang onto the ball, shedding several tacklers en route to the end zone.
“He’s a great running back,” Beneventi said about Williams III. “It’s definitely a tough loss for us. We’ll have a good week of practice, go to meetings and figure it out. Our coaches prepare us well and we’ll get better.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from the game. Our offensive line did a nice job and we made some plays. I missed a lot of receivers so I need to improve. I feel comfortable though. In the fourth quarter, I felt more excited than nervous that we would find a way to pull out a win.”
Fenwick (1-1) hosts De La Salle next Saturday, Sept. 13 (2 p.m.) at Concordia. In addition to its win over Fenwick, Bishop Lynch (2-0) defeated Dallas Carter to open the season.
“We scouted De La Salle and they are a bigger team than Bishop Lynch,” Nudo said. “We have things to work on. Our tackling has to improve, we missed two extra points, which changes the entire dynamic of the game and we missed some opportunities on offense. We have a much better defense, too, than we showed today.
“I think we can improve in all areas of the game. Our job as coaches is to prepare them better. We’re looking forward to next week.”