By James Kay
After their upset win over Walter Payton High School last week, the Friars (6-5) ran into a superior team in the second round of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs, ending their season with a lopsided 28-7 loss to Hillcrest High School (10-1).
"They came really prepared to play today," said interim head coach Titcus Pettigrew after the game. "They didn't commit a ton of penalties and we shot ourselves in the foot with turning the ball over and personal fouls. There are things we can do individually to clean up, but I have to tip my hat to that well-coached football team."
1Q: After Fenwick couldn't get anything going during its first offensive series, the Friars immediately felt the star power of Hillcrest running back Mar'Kiese Irving. After the Hawks used the running game to get to the 35-yard line. Irving took a snap out of the wildcat, made the defense miss with his elusiveness in the open field, and found the endzone. After the missed PAT, Hillcrest had a 6-0 lead with 7:58 left in the first.
The Friars responded by marching into enemy territory on the next possession. After a fourth down conversion, quarterback Kaden Cobb hit wide receiver Max Reese on a hitch route that put Fenwick on the Hawks' 6-yard line. On first-and-goal, Hillcrest stripped the ball from running back Danny Kent and recovered the fumble.
2Q: Hillcrest and Fenwick traded stops until the Hawks took over with 6:21 left in the half. Starting on his team's own 25 yard line, quarterback Robert Myles faked a handoff, and took off down the left sideline until being pushed out of bounds at the Fenwick 22 yard line. A delay of game penalty pushed the Hawks back to the 28 yard line, but Myles found Irving in one-on-one coverage in the endzone on second-and-17. Irving dragged his toes inbounds and held onto the pass to give his team a two-possession lead.
After Hillcrest converted a two-point conversion attempt, Fenwick found itself down 14-0 with 5:09 left in the half.
The Friars didn't do themselves any favors on the next drive when a block in the back penalty took them back to their own 12 yard line. On the next play, Cobb threw a wobbly pass that ended up in the arms of Hillcrest DB Jamon Williams. A block in the back penalty put the Hawks at the Fenwick 33 yard line.
The momentum shifted on the second play of the drive when Irving went down with an apparent lower-leg injury and had to be helped off the field.
"Today, you saw the reason why [Mar'Kiese Irving] is going to be playing college football in the future," said Pettigrew. "It sucks that he got hurt, but he's not the only one on their team who can make plays. They have a lot of talent over there."
Fenwick ended the half with back-to-back sacks after Irving's injury (he did not return) and seemed to have found a groove defensively.
3Q: Hillcrest stunted Fenwick's momentum on the opening drive when senior running back Darius Dawson took over Irving's share of the workload.
"Darius has been doing it all year," said Hillcrest head coach Morgan Weaver. "He stepped up for us last week and he did it again today. He's been through this before so it's nothing new for him."
Dawson had eight carries and 48 yards rushing after he finished the drive off with a 10-yard touchdown with 6:52 left in the quarter. Down 21-0, the Friars had little time to mount a comeback.
Starting at their own 28 yard line, Fenwick got to the Hillcrest 30. But the Friars ended up turning the ball over on downs after Hillcrest DB Prince Elston deflected Cobb's pass attempt to Reese.
4Q: One minute into the fourth quarter, Fenwick had another personal foul penalty that pushed the offense back to the 14 yard line. On third and 13, Cobb threw a pass down the middle of the field for Reese, but Hillcrest DB Dantrez Smith jumped in front of the pass and ran 30 yards for the pick-six. After the PAT, the Hawks had a 28-0 lead with 10:14 left in the game.
The passing game came alive on the Friars' next offensive drive. Cobb completed four of his five attempts for 50 yards. On the 2 yard line, Cobb rolled right and found Reese for the score.
With his team down 28-7, kicker Bryan Dowd executed a perfect onside kick that ended up in the hands of safety Greyson Cone. However, the Friars were shut down by Hillcrest on the next four plays, ending the comeback attempt.
Reporter's Pad: When interim head coach Pettigrew was asked if he would take the head coaching job if offered, he said he would "gladly accept it." However, Pettigrew also said that there haven't been conversations between him and athletic director Scott Thies because the season hadn't ended. The head coaching vacancy is open since former Fenwick head coach Gene Nudo stepped down when the school found out he had allowed a former assistant and convicted sex offender Frank Battaglia onto his staff briefly in 2016.
In his first game as interim head coach, Pettigrew led his team to a 21-17 victory last week against Walter Payton H.S.
Hillcrest head coach Morgan Weaver said Mar'Kiese Irving will be evaluated this week but his injury didn't appear to be that serious. The Hawks will face St. Rita High School next week in the next round of the playoffs.