The Fenwick High School football team partied like its 1995 after Friday’s 28-21 win over host Jacobs in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state playoffs. With the victory, the Friars became only the third team (along with the 1995 and 1981 squads) in program history to make the state semifinals.
The Friars (11-1), who have won seven games in a row, will host Plainfield North at Triton College in River Grove this Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m.
The Tigers (10-2) routed Rockford Auburn 30-7 in the quarterfinals, setting up their highly anticipated matchup against the Friars. In three postseason games, Plainfield North has outscored the opposition 121-27. Quarterback Brady Miller and a plethora of offensive threats in Dillon McCarthy, Tyler Hoosman, Connor Peplow and Nico Capezio lead Plainfield North.
Saturday’s winner advances to the Class 7A state championship game.
Fenwick certainly has been tested through three postseason games. Their wins against Hononegah (31-10), Lake Zurich (20-14) and Jacobs (28-21) have been progressively tougher to earn.
Against Jacobs, senior leaders like quarterback Jacob Keller, running back Conner Lillig, linebacker Brett Moorman and junior Lorenzano Blakeney inspired a team effort to overcome the Golden Eagles.
Keller completed 11 of 15 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, while the Friars’ workhorse Lillig turned in another strong effort with 158 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.
In three playoff games, Lillig has rushed for 301 yards and five touchdowns on 56 carries.
Lillig’s 64-yard TD run with 4:04 remaining in the fourth quarter served as the game-winning score.
“Once I broke through the line, the end zone was the only thing on my mind,” Lillig said. “[Center] Daniel Kannin told me the cutback was there prior to the play so I saw it and ran.
“It was great to see our defense pull up big in such a huge game. The fumble recovery by Brett [Moorman] was huge and ultimately decided the game.”
Along with two other touchdown runs by Lillig, Keller connected with rangy junior wideout Mike O’Laughlin on a 90-yard TD pass to account for all of the Friars’ points.
Senior wide receiver Sherman Martin contributed six catches for 80 yards for the Friars’ well-oiled, diverse offense.
From the start of the game, Jacobs was ready to play. Trevor Fitzsimmons returned the opening kickoff 53 yards, setting up the Golden Eagles’ first score. Quarterback Chris Katrenick threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Loewen to give Jacobs a 7-0 lead at 9:23 of the first quarter.
Fenwick responded on its opening drive as Lillig scored on a 1-yard run at 4:05 of the first quarter.
The teams traded two touchdowns apiece to make the score 21-21 before Lillig’s game-winning run late in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Fenwick was impressive with several clutch stops against Jacobs’ run-based offense. Moorman, in particular, continually frustrated the Golden Eagles with 13 tackles (6 solo), a pass deflection and fumble recovery.
In the second quarter with the score tied at 14, Moorman blocked a pass attempt by Katrenick on a fourth-and-goal at the Fenwick 3-yard line. Moorman’s other notable play was a fumble recovery with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter to essentially seal the Friars’ win.
Blakeney also led defensively with two interceptions and six total tackles. His first pick, on a play inside the Friars’ 5 yard line early in the second quarter, denied Jacobs a golden scoring opportunity.
Adrian Nourse (9 tackles), Ryan Chapman (8 tackles), Lorente Blakeney (7 tackles) and Jason Ivery (6 tackles) also played key roles in Fenwick defensive coordinator Brandon New’s scheme.
“Winning is always fun but even more so when everybody contributes,” Moorman said. “Having so many guys who can contribute makes things so much easier too. I know that if I don’t have my best game, some guys will pick up the slack.”
Jacobs’ junior running backs David Butros (14 carries, 86 yards) and Loren Strickland (15 carries 75 yards) led the Golden Eagles in rushing.
Jacobs finished the season with a 7-5 record.
As for the Friars’ 7A semifinal, “It feels good to be able to play this game at home,” Keller said. “The place is going to be packed, which I think definitely will give us an advantage.
“We are very proud of all our accomplishments this season, but we aren’t done. We want that ring.”
Moorman added: “It’s an incredible opportunity. It’s one of those moments you’ve dreamed about as a kid. I love our home field and our home crowd.”
East St. Louis (12-0) and Benet (10-2) square off in the other semifinal.
The 7A championship game is Saturday, Nov. 26 (4 p.m.) at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.