Class 7A playoff preview: Fenwick at Highland Park

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Second-seeded Highland Park (9-0) plays host to 15th-seeded Fenwick (5-4) at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Highland Park

Cole Greenberg, running back, sr. — Greenberg, an agile running back who has feasted on CSL competition as the CSL North Offensive Player of the Year, averages over five yards per carry this season. He scored 13 touchdowns in a span of three games against Maine West, Maine East and Niles North.

Tommy Rudman, wide receiver/linebacker, sr. — Rudman, perhaps the Giants’ most dangerous two-way player, is the team’s No. 2 tackler and second-leading receiver. He recorded 12 tackles in Friday’s CSL North-clinching game against Glenbrook North, also finding the end zone twice, including the game winner. Rudman was named the CSL North Defensive Player of the Year.

Fenwick

Jack Beneventi, quarterback, sr. — Beneventi (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) transferred from Benet in June. The Iowa recruit also received offers from Louisville, Notre Dame and Illinois, among others, and entered the season as the No. 2 senior quarterback in Illinois, per scout.com. In Fenwick’s Week 3 win over De La Salle, Beneventi tossed a career-high five touchdowns. However, the senior limps into the playoffs — his combined stat line in the Friars’ final two games against Montini and St. Francis: 14-of-40, 99 yards, 0 touchdowns and four picks.

Aaron Garland, defensive back, sr. — The Connecticut-bound Garland has delivered in clutch situations throughout the season. Garland sealed the Friars’ Week 1 win over Carmel with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. And in Week 7, his interception with just 1:20 left sent St. Ignatius packing.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

When Highland Park runs…

Greenberg has averaged 130 yards and two touchdowns a game this season and the senior has seven games with 110-plus yards. He averaged 157 yards per game over the final five games of the Giants’ undefeated regular season. Sophomore D.J. Penick also represents a threat out of the backfield, averaging nearly eight yards per carry this season, scoring three touchdowns.

When Highland Park throws…

Senior quarterback Sam Nevers is fresh off a career game. Against Glenbrook North, Nevers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, with all four coming in the first half. He did add three picks in the third quarter. Nevers has been a consistent force for the Giants throughout, capping the regular season with a quarterback rating of 137.1. In addition to Rudman, lengthy wide receivers like Jack McGuire, Luke Norcia and Hallvard Lundevall — all 6-2 or taller — have remained dependable targets all season. Lundevall totalled 111 yards and two touchdowns against Glenbrook North.

When Fenwick runs…

Beneventi can certainly do damage through the air for Fenwick, but the Friars’ running game also stores big-play potential. Senior tailback Pat Donahue broke free for a 68-yard score against DePaul Prep in Week 5 and found the end zone on a 50-yarder in Week 6 against Marmion. Donahue enters the playoffs on a tear, with successive games of 98, 129, 96, 95 and 96 yards.

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