— Shaw Media file photo

Gene Nudo knows that last season was below Fenwick’s typical standards, and the eight-year head coach is looking to turn things around.

“Well, obviously we’re coming off a disappointing season for us,” Nudo said. “Our goals are to be a better overall team, that means in all three areas of the game.”

Nudo has been 3-6 before, in 2015, and Fenwick answered that season by going 11-2 in 2016. While Fenwick may not be in for that extreme of a swing, Nudo plans on a return to the playoffs and competition for a conference title.

“I promise you, when people line up and play us they’re going to know they’re playing Fenwick,” Nudo said. 

Head Coach: Gene Nudo (8th season)

Last Year’s Record: 3-6

Biggest question

Will the ESCC/CCL merger change anything for Fenwick?

This season will bring back the merger between the East Suburban Catholic Conference and the Chicago Catholic League. The new league is comprised of six divisions (Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, White) of four teams. The format will be two nonconference games, three division games, two games with a larger division and two games with a smaller division. The merger was designed to increase parity among teams.

Fenwick will be in the White division with Marmion Academy, St. Ignatius and Joliet Catholic. While this provides the Friars with some breathing room, they will still be playing an incredibly tough schedule from cross divisional games.

“Our guys were out there working hard every day and never packed it in last year,” Nudo said. “And believe me, we played some teams last season where you see state champions on your schedule, and the Mt. Carmel’s of the world, the Brother Rice’s of the world, we play with the big boys.”

Fenwick continues to play big-boy football. Last year they faced Class 8A finalist Brother Rice, 7A semifinalist Mt. Carmel, and 5A finalist Montini. This year they will face 8A semifinalist Marist, 7A champion Nazareth Academy and 5A champion Joliet Catholic. 

Players to watch

Fenwick will return key players in all three phases of the game. 

On offense, the Friars return three key offensive linemen: sophomore center Jimmy Liston, junior tackle Jamie Moran and senior tackle Sean Carpenter. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Carpenter has been a fixture at tackle and is going into his third season starting for Fenwick.

Defensively, Nudo is counting on a pair of senior cornerbacks in Solomon Singleton and Mark Thomas and a linebacking corps built around all-conference linebacker Tom Dvorak to lead his defense to a strong 2019 campaign. 

For special teams, kicker/punter Bryan Dowd is going into his third season with the Friars. The predominantly soccer player is committed in soccer to Notre Dame as a goalie. He is yet to miss an extra point While suiting up for the football team.

Newcomers you need to know

Fenwick will turn to Kaden Cobb (6-3, 180) at quarterback. The sophomore has already gotten some Big Ten interest from Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota, but he hasn’t taken a varsity snap yet.

Nudo stressed the importance of patience when it came to Cobb taking over.

“We have a very talented sophomore quarterback who we think is going to be a very good player, but he hasn’t taken a snap at quarterback at the varsity level,” Nudo said. “So we’ve got to be a little bit patient with his development.”

Cobb has worked out over the summer with fellow Catholic League quarterbacks J.J. McCarthy (Nazareth) and Dontrell Jackson Jr. (Marist) with quarterback development group Next Level Athletix.

How much Cobb delivers on his potential will ultimately determine how many of Nudo’s goal can achieve after Fenwick averaged 10.3 points per game last season

“We have a very challenging schedule, and our first goal is always the same and that’s to win our conference,” Coach Nudo said. “The second goal is to make the state playoffs and the third goal is always to win the state championship.”

2019 schedule analysis

Fenwick opens with two Chicago Public League teams at home, Curie and Dunbar. Both games are very winnable, with Curie coming off a 3-6 season, while Dunbar has struggled in games outside of the CPL.

Things get nasty the next three weeks, though, as Fenwick has to go to Nazareth and Joliet Catholic before a home matchup with Marist. Cobb will be against his workout teammates, and Fenwick will need an extraordinary performance to steal any of those three games.

The schedule turns favorable the following three weeks with Marmion, St. Patrick and Leo before closing with rival St. Ignatius, which defeated Fenwick, 34-0, last year. Marmion and Leo were two of Fenwick’s three wins last year.

Early take

It’s rocky, but there is a road to the playoffs for Fenwick. If the Friars can keep morale up and stay afloat through that nasty Week 3-5 stretch, and Cobb plays to his potential, this team could be 5-4 or 6-3 with the right bounces.

If Fenwick open with wins over Curie and Dunbar, follow suit from last year with wins over Marmion and Leo, then it just needs to split versus St. Patrick and St. Ignatius to reach eligibility.