Pat Donahue has been the best and most consistent offensive threat all season for the Fenwick High School football team. The senior running back showed his worth yet again during the Friars’ 31-14 win over Carmel in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs Saturday in Mundelein.
Donahue rushed 38 times for 177 yards and a touchdown to propel Fenwick to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, the fourth time in school history the team has reached the Elite 8.
“It’s easy to run when you have a great offensive line,” Donahue said. “We just wanted it more today. The defense has been playing great for the last couple of weeks, so we didn’t want it to be on us today.
“(Carmel) ran a different front than we’re used to seeing. It just worked a little bit more to our advantage.”
Saturday’s victory also notched a season sweep of Carmel. The Friars defeated the Corsairs 31-20 in both teams’ season opener. In the first meeting, Fenwick quarterback Jack Beneventi completed 13 of 25 passes for 151 yards and a TD, while Donahue finished with 123 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Looking ahead to the quarterfinals next weekend, the Friars (7-4) will host Libertyville (8-3), which beat Addison Trail 17-7 on Saturday.
After Carmel (7-4) took a 7-0 lead on Kenny Barber’s 55-yard run midway through the first quarter, Fenwick responded immediately. On the next play, Will Lattner returned the kickoff 67 yards to give Fenwick excellent field position at the Corsairs’ 30. Donahue capped off a brief offensive series with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7. Aided by another long kickoff return (Aaron Garland for 86 yards), Fenwick senior Michael Cahill kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Beneventi (7-for-11, 110 yards) tossed a 5-yard pass to Patrick Honan (five catches, 69 yards) for another score with 44 seconds left in the second quarter to give Fenwick a 17-14 halftime lead. The Iowa-bound Beneventi played well, especially after a difficult week in which his grandfather passed away. The 6-6 signal caller also endured a bout with the flu.
“Jack has come through a rough week at quarterback,” Fenwick coach Gene Nudo said. “We admire everything that he has done for us, especially tonight. I hear how people talk about him and he’s certainly not deserving of it. He’s a good kid. More importantly, he’s a kid. I’m pleased with the way he led our team tonight.”
The Friars pulled away in the second half, scoring 14 points on a pair of short touchdown runs by Adam Williams. Joshua McGee chipped in 21 rushing yards on seven carries as the team racked up 217 yards on the ground off 53 carries.
“It feels great to get the win,” Williams said. “Our running back core this year has been putting up a lot of the points. It feels good to contribute.”
Defensively, Fenwick also played well by holding Carmel scoreless in the second half. Senior linebacker Michael Krecek paced a swarming defensive effort with 7.5 tackles, along with strong contributions from defensive linemen Chris Hawthorne (6.5 tackles) and Justin Rodriguez (5.5 tackles). Garland anchored the secondary with two tackles and two pass deflections.
Highly praised before the season due to a strong core of returning players, the defense is peaking at the perfect time of the year courtesy of a disciplined, physical approach.
“It was all about lining up in your gap,” Krecek said. “It doesn’t matter if a guy goes away or comes to you, you just have to hold your ground and get the ball where it comes to you. Chris Hawthorne had a monster game and my sophomore buddy (linebacker) Brett Moorman had a fantastic game beside me. (Senior linebackers) Scott Stibich and John Doherty really held down the outside for me.”
Harry Bell, Ryan Pierson and Joe Calcagno also contributed for the defense, which has allowed 24 points (total) in the Friars’ two playoff wins.
Looking ahead to Libertyville in the state quarterfinals
Like the 15th-seeded Friars, No. 11 seed Libertyville has advanced to the 7A state quarters courtesy of a stout defense and strong running game. The Wildcats (8-3) recorded nine sacks, including a team-high five from 6-5, 210-pound defensive end Jordan McInerney, in their 17-7 win over Addison Trail in second round action over the weekend.
Along with McInerney, Ben Kimpler, Quincy Kale, Mark Dunsing and Scott Larak each had apiece against Addison Trail quarterback Ryan Zigowicz, who eventually left the game with an injury. Libertyville, which also had two interceptions defensively, held the Blazers to under 25 yards rushing.
Quarterback Riley Lees provided more than enough offense for the Wildcats, rushing 27 times for 218 yards.
The Friars will counter the Wildcats’ smash mouth style with plenty of handoffs to Donahue and the big-play passing capability of Beneventi and a solid core of wide receivers. Defensively, Krecek, Hawthorne, Bell and the rest of the Friars’ front seven must win, what will assuredly be, a heated battle along the line of scrimmage.