When Fenwick and Bishop Lynch football teams meet Sept. 6 in Dallas, it may be difficult to tell them apart.
Both schools are the Friars and both wear black-and-white. The fight song — that’s the same, too.
That’s not merely by coincidence. Legend has it that in 1963, teachers from Fenwick brought more than just Dominican education down South.
“The (Fenwick) priests 50 years ago put all of that stuff in their suitcase and brought it with them,” Bishop Lynch president Ed Leyden said.
In 1963, nine Domincan friars from Fenwick and eight Dominican sisters from Sinsinawa, Wis., left the Midwest to teach at Bishop Lynch in Texas.
Launched with an orginal enrollment of 300 freshmen and sophomores, it’s now now the largest four-year private high school in the state.
“We brought a lot, but maybe too much,” said the Rev. Richard LaPata, one of the founding priests. “I’m glad that despite the similarities, Bishop Lynch has established its own identity and has done quite well down there.”
As part of its anniversary celebration, Bishop Lynch invited Fenwick’s football team to return this fall for a showdown under the famed Friday Night Lights of Texas. Bishop Lynch will head north next year for a rematch.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime,” said Fenwick senior running back Robert Spillane, who verbally committed to Western Michigan. “I know I’m never going to forget it, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Fenwick athletic director Scott Thies said the school is taking about 90 people, including players, coaches, administration and the broadcast club, which will stream the game live on www.highschoolcube.com. Thies said he’s expecting a contingent of parents and alums for the game.
“I was at an event this weekend and talked to some friends,” he said. “They said there’s going to be a big group from the Class of 1997 going down for the game and staying in Dallas a little longer.
Thies said that part of the funding for the trip came out of the athletic budget, while the rest was donated by alumni, supporters and friends of the school contacted through the development department.
Fenwick will practice at home Wednesday night and leave Thursday morning. The Oak Park Friars will conduct a walk-through on Friday before the game. They’ll leave Saturday morning for Chicago and begin preparing for a Week 3 contest against Brother Rice.
Both teams will have already played a game prior to meeting, with Fenwick opening against St. Joe’s. While Bishop Lynch, which is a state power in boys track, has speedy skill players, Fenwick boasts good size on its line.
Returning for Bishop Lynch is junior running back Rawleigh Williams III. The 6-foot-1 210-pounder ran for more than 1,000 yards last year and received a scholarship offer from Ole Miss.
“He’s an all-world guy,” Bishop Lynch first-year coach Ben Dasch said. “He’s a special, special player.”
Also back is starting quarterback Barrett Renner.
“He’s a left-handed kid, and I wouldn’t quite say he’s a dual-threat, but he’s a good runner and a great passer,” Dasch said. “He’s got a chance to break a couple of school records.”
Fenwick enters the season with a lot of optimism following an 8-4 campaign.
In Gene Nudo’s first season coaching the Friars, the team captured the Catholic League White championship and returned to the state playoffs after a one-year absence.
“I’m just looking for a good season again,” senior quarterback Gino Cavalierri said. “Last year we had a great season, but we’re looking for an even better one. We have like eight guys returning that started last year, so that will help a lot.”
One concern the Fenwick Friars will have to overcome is the stiffling heat. Dasch said that the on-field heat index at their stadium last week was 115 degrees. While he doesn’t expect it to be that hot for the game, the temperature still could be in the 90s.
“We’re going to have the heat turned up,” said Dasch, a 1995 Bishop Lynch alum who’s been the team’s defensive coordinator since 2006. “I always compare it to being in front of a blast furnace. It’s heat that you can’t escape. I was in Alabama for nine years between stints in Texas. Alabama-hot is humid, muggy and sticky. Texas-hot is like a blanket that you’re in all the time, and you can’t get away from it.”
Nudo is familar with soaring temperatures from his days coaching in the Arena League with the Arizona Rattlers and the Dallas Vigilantes.
“There’s nothing we can really do up here to prepare for it, other than hope that we have some very hot and humid weather here in late August,” Nudo said. “But having gone through this and having coached in Arizona, that will be a week of a lot of fruit and a lot of (sports drinks). We’ll hydrate our bodies and make sure we get enough potassium. But the nice thing is for the most part, our guys play on one side of the ball.”
That won’t be the only heat the Fenwick fans will be feeling. The people in Texas have a warm spot in their hearts for their Dominican sister school up north.
“I think everyone who is part of our organization feels a sense of pride to be representing our institution in this year specifically,” Dasch said. “Bishop Lynch is a great place, and one of the many reasons it’s great is the foundation that was laid for us by the representatives from Fenwick. The fact of the matter is, using the model they gave us, we built a school the entire program is proud of. We’re all very, very excited about our role in the history of this school and what this will mean for the players and teams that came before us.”