Prep football: Fenwick staying positive, headed to struggling McNick

Fenwick High School football coach Dan Haverkamp said he feels pretty good about where his team is through the first five games, despite two tough losses.

This week’s game at McNicholas could serve as a springboard to a strong finish.

The Falcons (3-2, 1-1 Greater Catholic League Coed North Division) look to rebound from a 45-20 loss to Alter when they travel to play the Rockets (1-4, 0-2 GCLC Central) on Friday night.


“We have two tough losses, but players still seem focused,” Haverkamp said. “It hasn’t changed their demeanor from a big-picture standpoint, and hopefully that continues as we try to finish strong in the second half (of the season). In terms of regaining confidence after a tough loss, this is a critical game.”

Fenwick has beaten McNicholas each of the past three seasons but the last two meetings were decided by a touchdown or less, including in overtime last year.

The Rockets are six-time defending Central champions but have GCLC losses to Carroll and Purcell Marian already, and their lone win so far came against Norwood in Week 2. The slow start doesn’t change anything about how the Falcons view their opponent this week.

“Their record is not that great right now, but they’ve been the team to beat in the Central Division the last few years,” Haverkamp said. “We still have to be prepared for a team with strong winning tradition that will be coming in expecting to win.”

McNick is hoping Friday serves as a turning point, particularly for its offense.

The Rockets have been unable to get any sort of running game going behind an offensive line that lost three to four starters from last year. On top of that, starting quarterback Clay Badylak has been hampered by an ankle injury suffered on the second play of the Norwood game in Week 2, and he’s been splitting time with freshman Pierce Taylor while powering through the injury.

“Offensively, we just can’t get it going,” eighth-year Rockets coach Mike Orlando said. “We haven’t found our run. We haven’t run the ball well, and to be successful, we have to find some sort of running game to alleviate the pressure of just dropping back all the time, especially on a guy that’s not real mobile right now.”

Defensively, McNicholas presents some challenges as a team that has forced 15 turnovers through five games. Senior linebacker Jason Fehr leads the Rockets with 48 tackles and four forced fumbles.

Fenwick was outmatched physically last week against Alter, but Orlando said that likely will be the case this time for his team. He described the Falcons as “a good squad — the same sturdy, physical kind of kids” they’ve had in the past but with a different approach offensively.

The Falcons are led offensively by quarterback Sully Janeck (836 yards passing, nine touchdowns, four interceptions), running back Jack Fessler (519 yards and seven touchdowns on 88 carries) and receivers Thomas Vogelsang, Jordan Rucker and R.J. Clesceri. They will be missing center Josh Steinmetz because of injury.

Defensive back Henry Nenni (65 tackles) and linebacker Leo Bell (60 tackles) lead the defense.

“We have some trouble from a physical standpoint when we get worn down, but we use our speed and athleticism well on the defensive side so we have to be conscious of the detail things, like alignment and assignment and give 100 percent effort,” Orlando said. “A combination of youth, inexperience and injury has put us in spots where we aren’t where we want to be. We had question marks coming in and haven’t gotten the answers we wanted yet. We’ve showed glimpses and flashes but have to do it on a consistent basis, and hopefully we can figure that out soon.”

Friday’s game

What: Fenwick (3-2, 1-1 GCLC North) at McNicholas (1-4, 0-2 GCLC Central), 7 p.m.

Where: Penn Station Stadium, 6536 Beechmont Ave., Cincinnati

Series: McNicholas leads 10-8, but Fenwick has won the last three meetings, including 24-17 in overtime in 2017

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