Coming off of what Fenwick head coach Gene Nudo called a “gut-wrenching loss” against Wheaton North last week, the Friars handed Brother Rice its own gut-wrencher with the help of a 34-yard field goal by Mike Cahill with four seconds left in the game for a 24-21 first-round Catholic League Playoff win Saturday afternoon in Chicago.
“It’s pretty cool to win a game like that,” said Cahill. “I have to give thanks to my offense though for putting me in that position.”
With Western Michigan-bound Ryan Spillane on the sidelines, the Friars (10-2) took charge under tight end Ryan Smith. Spillane was missed but the Friars had something to prove.
“Everyone says we’re a one-man team,” said Nudo. “(Smith), in my opinion, is the best tight end in the state of Illinois. He had ten touchdown receptions coming into this game. He’s a big target, he knows what to do with the ball and I’m sure glad we have the opportunity to have him here.”
Smith ended Saturday’s contest with 8 catches, 113 receiving yards and a touchdown, but not before the Crusaders (3-7) took charge with a 14-0 first-half lead thanks to touchdowns from running back Marcus Jones (23 carries, 97 yds, 2 receptions, 15 receiving yds) and quarterback Alex Alarcon (11-for-27, 110 yds, TD, 2 INT, 15 carries, 88 yds, TD).
Fenwick realized it had to step up its game.
“We didn’t want this to be our last game,” said quarterback Gino Cavalieri (19-for-40, 459 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT). “We knew we wanted this in and get another chance so we stuck to our game plan, (Smith) knows his job and what he needs to do to get it done and we got it done.”
After a Jack Rafferty interception early in the third quarter, Cavalieri hooked up with Smith for an eight-yard touchdown reception which cut the Crusader lead to 14-7.
Another Crusader turnover, this time a fumble, led to an 11-yard touchdown run from Michael Hanrahan. Brother Rice responded with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Alarcon to Tommy Powell.
Charlie Emmons of Fenwick tied it up with a four-yard run with a minute left to play. Brother Rice immediately turned the ball over as Aaron Garand picked off a pass that set up Cahill’s field goal.
“We’re kind of big on comeback victories,” Smith said. “After winning a game in the playoffs last year on a last-second field goal. I guess it’s what we do.”
For Brother Rice, the loss was hard to swallow.
“We came out in the first half and just executed well and we were on our game,” said Alarcon. “We went in (to the second half) with a two-touchdown lead but once we hit that first turnover it brought us down. We had our ups and downs, and in the end we just didn’t make the plays. We’ll come back strong next year. It’s just really hard.”