By James Kay
After Fenwick's 17-9 win against St. Patrick, one thing has been made clear: head coach Gene Nudo will not be sporting his classic mustache until his team loses.
"The mustache is gone for right now, baby," said Nudo. "If anyone wants to see me put the 'stache on, the other team is going to have to beat us. In 40 years of coaching, I am now 2-0 without the 'stache."
Along with the superstition around Nudo's bare upper lip, the Friars (4-3, 1-1 CCL) were able to get the job done on the ground while shutting down the Shamrocks' (2-5) banged-up offense. Running back Danny Kent led the team with 94 rushing yards on 16 carries while also finding the endzone twice for the Friars' lone touchdowns.
"This week, I strained my hip flexor, so I was taking it easy at practice, but I knew I had to be good for today and O-line did a great job of executing," said Kent. "I knew the holes were going to open up like they always do."
On the opening drive of the game, the Friars put together a 7-play series that ended with Kent breaking two tackles on the Shamrocks' 14-yard line and taking it in for the score. Both teams exchanged punts back and forth until the Shamrocks started to get things going late in the first quarter.
St. Patrick found itself at the Fenwick 3-yard line after running back Eric Wozny Jr. broke off a 57-yard run to get the Shamrocks into the red zone. However, Fenwick stuffed St. Patrick on three consecutive plays to force a field goal to make the score 7-3.
Both teams struggled on the night to get anything going through the air and traded defensive stops until Fenwick had a shot to grow its lead with 2:24 remaining in the half. Starting on their own 48, the Friars chipped away at the Shamrock defense with short gains on the ground and through the air. With 1:18 left, Kent took a handoff from the five-yard line, weaved his way to the right, and broke the plane to increase the Friars' lead before the half.
The Friar and Shamrock offenses couldn't find any openings throughout the third quarter, keeping the score 14-3 heading into the last stage of the game.
St. Patrick's first drive in the fourth quarter had Fenwick's defense reeling aided by a few questionable calls. The first came on third and six on the Friars' 26-yard line when it appeared the Shamrocks fumbled after a short completion on the right side of the field. Fenwick recovered the ball, but the officials ruled the receiver down.
After the Friars committed an encroachment penalty on 4th and 5, the Shamrocks pushed the ball to the Friars' 1-yard line. They scored on the next play on a quarterback sneak, but the Fenwick defense contested saying he didn't cross the goal line. St. Patrick failed to convert its two-point attempt, making the score 14-9.
"We had a couple of errors, but I am proud of the kids' grit," said Nudo. "They could have folded there at the end but they are getting used to playing in those competitive close games."
Fenwick couldn't generate any offense on the ensuing possession and was forced to punt, putting the Shamrocks on their own 35 with 4:13 left to go. However, St. Patrick fumbled a clean snap before Friars' linebacker, Danny Farnan, swooped in to recover the ball on the Shamrocks' 27.
St. Patrick's defense did enough to stop the Friars from gaining a two-touchdown lead after shutting down the run game on the 21-yard line. Fenwick turned to its senior kicker, Bryan Dowd, to give them. The Friars took a low snap, which delayed Dowd's stride, but he kept his poise to nail the 30-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.
"That is what he has done throughout his whole career here," said Nudo. "He's going to Notre Dame for soccer and games like this remind you he could probably play football there too."
The Friars' defense took care of business on the last drive of the game when St. Patrick heaved a downfield pass that ended up in the hands of Greyson Cone. He finished with two interceptions on the night.
Nudo doesn't take wins like this for granted.
I learned a long time ago that you never apologize for a win," said Nudo. "I am happy for our boys and we are in the mix. Our goal is to get to the playoffs, and we think we are right there."
Fenwick will look for its third win in a row on Oct. 18 when it goes up against Leo High School on the road. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.