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Naz thumps Friars with shutdown defense

Big third quarter lifts Nazareth to 31-6 victory

September 17th, 2019 2:33 PM

Nazareth's Derrick Strongs (24) runs with the ball on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, during a varsity non-conference football game against Fenwick at Valenta Stadium in La Grange Park | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

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By Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

Many predicted that the first-ever football game between Fenwick High School and Nazareth Academy was going to be a high-scoring affair, given that each team had prolific offenses led respectively by quarterbacks Kaden Cobb and J.J. McCarthy. 

In anticipation, there was a standing-room-only crowd on hand at Valenta Stadium in LaGrange Park.

"I was very proud of the Fenwick community in the way it turned out for our boys," Fenwick coach Gene Nudo. "They couldn't help but take notice and got a little more of an understanding of what it means to be a football Friar. I got a phone call from the captain of the 1938 team; he called to wish me and the boys good luck. There aren't a lot of places where you can get such a phone call."

The Friars put up a good fight for most of the game, but ultimately, the Roadrunners found a little more rhythm offensively in the second half to pull away with a 31-6 victory.

"It was a hard-fought battle on both sides of the ball. We knew Fenwick was going to be a physical team," said Nazareth head coach Tim Racki. "I was pleased with our defensive effort because we kept them out of the end zone."

With 1:02 left in the first quarter, Nazareth blocked kicker Bryan Dowd's 34-yard field goal attempt. The Roadrunners (2-1) then embarked on a 10-play, 82-yard march that culminated with Riley Theobald's 18-yard touchdown run at the 9:57 mark of the second quarter. 

With Nazareth up 7-0, both the teams traded defensive stops for the remainder of the half.

Four plays into the second half, Nazareth scored again on a 49-yard strike from McCarthy to Tyler Morris. 

"It was an isolation matchup on the outside," said Morris. "J.J. just threw it, and I got it."

Midway through the third, Morris came up with another big play -- this time on defense -- with an interception of Cobb (10-for-29, 142 yards, 2 INT) at midfield. His 37-yard return would set up Carrillo's two-yard scramble to raise Nazareth's lead to 21-0.

The Roadrunners' defense came up huge again on Fenwick's next possession as linebacker Marcus Griffin strip-sacked Cobb, which defensive end Daine Hanson recovered at the Friars' 46-yard line. Fowler's 20-yard field goal capped off a seven-play drive to make the score 24-0 Nazareth late in the third quarter.

Fenwick (2-1) got a spark on the ensuing kickoff as Danny Kent returned it 92 yards for a touchdown. A failed two-point conversion left the score 24-6 Nazareth. The Friars began to build momentum as Greysen Cone intercepted McCarthy at the Nazareth 45.

Fenwick drove to the Roadrunners' 7-yard line early in the fourth. On fourth-and-1, Cobb rolled out to his left but missed Eian Pugh in the end zone.

Nazareth iced the game with a 13-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes. Carrillo's second touchdown run, this one from eight yards out, and the point after by Fowler made the score 31-6.

Outside of a few big plays, Fenwick had trouble sustaining offense. The Friars managed 144 yards in total offense, including just two yards rushing. Pugh (46 yards) and Brian Moore (26 yards) each grabbed three receptions.

Defensively, Danny Farnan paced the Friars with 10 tackles. Bryce Legan added 7 tackles - including a sack of McCarthy in the first half.

"We played against one of the best teams in the state, there's no doubt about it. Nazareth is very impressive," Nudo said. "I thought our kids did a great job of hanging in there for a half, but the third quarter did us in."

Both Nazareth and Fenwick will seek consistency as Week Four looms. The Roadrunners travel to Burbank for a Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Orange Division opener against St. Laurence. 

The Friars have another road challenge as they visit defending 5A champion Joliet Catholic in a CCL/ESCC White Division opener. 

Both games are on Friday, Sept. 20, with each kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.