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Fenwick beats Sycamore, advances to first state-championship football game in school history

Several generations of Fenwick football lined the field at Triton College on Saturday afternoon.

Fenwick’s Denium Juette(4) and Eian Pugh (7) celebrate after winning the game against Sycamore.
Fenwick’s Denium Juette(4) and Eian Pugh (7) celebrate after winning the game against Sycamore.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Several generations of Fenwick football lined the field Saturday at Triton College.

Recent graduates Jacob Keller and Mike O’Laughlin were there in person. Johnny Lattner was present in spirit. His Heisman Trophy sat on a table near one end zone.

Those Friars — and many others — weren’t disappointed. Fenwick beat Sycamore 17-6 to advance to the Class 5A title game. It’s the Friars’ first appearance in a state-championship game.

‘‘It’s so surreal that it hasn’t really hit me yet,’’ senior lineman Jimmy Liston said. ‘‘We’ve still got one more, but it’s a very cool accomplishment to be the first in Fenwick history to do. We aren’t done yet.’’

Liston has started 36 games for the Friars. This season, he has been blocking for quarterback Kaden Cobb, one of the most dynamic talents in the area.

‘‘It’s exhilarating to be out there with him,’’ Liston said. ‘‘I catch myself watching him as I’m playing. You never know what he’s going to do. He might take off or fire it downfield. And he’s an even better guy than a football player, so that’s great.’’

Cobb completed his first 10 passes and finished 18-for-23 for 259 yards. The Ball State recruit connected with Bryan Hunt on a 38-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and didn’t throw an interception.

Hunt had six catches for 85 yards, and Eastern Michigan recruit Max Reese and Illinois recruit Eian Pugh each contributed several big receptions.

Cobb’s physical talents and intelligence would be difficult to stop even without such an impressive group of receivers.

‘‘Any of the guys can step up and make a big play,’’ Cobb said. ‘‘Sycamore started backing up a bit because they didn’t want to get beat. They are a good defense, so we took what we could, But we hit them on some deep balls, and they couldn’t catch up.’’

Fenwick (11-2) led 14-0 at halftime after a one-yard touchdown run by Danny Kent (23 carries, 71 yards) and Hunt’s touchdown catch.

Sycamore (9-4) scored on a three-yard run by Sam Carlson midway through the third quarter but never managed to challenge Fenwick’s defense after that. Defensive linemen Suleiman Abuaqel and Quin Wieties had key sacks for the Friars.

‘‘[Cobb] is a field general,’’ Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia said. ‘‘He understands football, and it makes my job so much easier. Obviously, we would have liked to put up more points today, but both sides of the ball did their job.’’

Carlson had 53 yards on nine carries for the Spartans, and quarterback Eli Meier was 6-for-13 for 111 yards.

‘‘We got about everything out of our kids that we could have,’’ Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. ‘‘They gave us everything that they could. There’s nobody walking off this field wishing they could have played a little bit better or given a better effort. Our kids kept battling. Probably a little outmanned with their receivers. They just made a few more plays, and that’s what it comes down to in a semifinal game.’’

Fenwick will face Kankakee, a 41-14 winner against downstate Morton, in the Class 5A title game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

‘‘The biggest thing is that we didn’t want to let all those fans down and all those former players who fought so hard to get here, as well,’’ Battaglia said.