- Mark Schmetzer Contributing Writer
Fenwick High School’s dramatic, come-from-behind football win over Badin last Friday did more than just snap the Falcons’ four-game losing streak.
It restored their flagging confidence, coach John Aregood said.
“We played a tough schedule,” Aregood said. “We beat (Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy) in the opener, but we didn’t have any other wins to build confidence, and the kids were starting to wonder if they were just losing to good teams or weren’t very good.
“This was a confidence-builder. We feel like we’re a good team. We were in dire straits against Badin. We were 97 yards away with less than three minutes to go, and we had to score to win.”
Pulling out the Greater Catholic League Coed Division win and limiting a usually prolific offense along the way should help the Falcons (2-4, 1-2 GCLC North) on Friday when they host Central Division-leading McNicholas (5-1, 3-0) at 7 p.m.
The Rockets, third in the Division III, Region 12 Harbin computer ratings, go into the game ranked third among all GCLC teams in total offense with an average of 313.7 yards per game (165.8 rushing, 147.8 passing).
Quarterback Cole Burdick, a 6-foot, 172-pound senior, leads with 887 passing yards, 361 of them on connections with 6-foot, 160-pound senior wide receiver Matthew Neuzil.
“The only thing about Badin is they’re kind of one-dimensional,” Aregood said. “McNicholas is two-dimensional. They run the ball well and throw the ball well. It will be a tough job to hold them out. They’re kind of like CHCA in the way they mix the run and pass, and they play even defense.”
Rockets defensive end Jackson Gear, a 6-3 210-pound senior, already has piled up a GCLC-leading nine sacks, literally twice as many as 6-1, 193-pound senior two-way lineman Chris Wittwer, who is second with 4 1/2 sacks.
McNicholas has won five consecutive Central championships and has participated in a spirited series with Fenwick. The Falcons have won the last two games (20-17 and 24-10) after the Rockets won three straight (14-13, 35-28 and 45-44 in OT).
“They’ve been tough,” McNicholas coach Mike Orlando said. “It’s a good rivalry. They have a great place to play up there. They have a fantastic facility with one of the few grass fields you like going to, and the stands are right there on top of you.”
Despite riding a four-game winning streak that includes two shutouts, Orlando anticipates another tough game facing a Fenwick offense led by 5-11, 165-pound junior quarterback Sully Janeck, who is second to Burdick with 567 passing yards in the GCLC.
Middle linebacker Joe Durham, a 6-3, 225-pound senior, leads the GCLC with 62 tackles, 10 more than 6-3, 230-pound senior outside linebacker Bradley Davenport.
“They’re typical Fenwick,” said Orlando, whose team’s only loss was 39-0 to an Anderson team ranked third in the Division II, Region 8 Harbin ratings. “They have big, strong kids. The offense wants to run the ball, the defense wants to stop the run, and they do a pretty good job of both. We’ll have our hands full. The last couple of weeks, they’ve played some teams while not at full strength. It’s going to be a tough night. They’re good at what they do with tough, hard-nosed kids.”
While many coaches are reporting their teams as being remarkably healthy six games into the season, Fenwick is not among them.
“We’re not one of those teams in pretty good shape,” Aregood said. “We’ve actually lost four starters — three knees and a hip. We’re playing a lot of kids both ways.”
The replacements have embraced the next-man-up concept, Aregood said.
“The only problem is most all of them who step in now become two-way players,” he added. “Where we were able to play one way and keep them in good shape and healthy and not winded, we can’t do that now. But kids are resilient.”
Somebody pointed out that piecing together the late fourth-quarter drive to produce the winning touchdown against Badin suggests that the healthy players are in good shape.
“We think so,” Aregood said. “We hope so.”