Friday, October 31, 2014

Has Fenwick ever played Highland Park... football? Not in the last ten years; maybe never.

Think about that for a second: Highland Park High School has been around since 1886 and Fenwick since 1929, and yet the two schools, which are only 26 miles apart (the distance of a marathon), have never met on the gridiron (as far as I know).

But that's all going to change tomorrow night when the No. 2-seed (and undefeated) Giants (9-0) host the No. 15-seed Friars (5-4) in the first round of the 7A playoffs.

(Full disclosure: my dad was a 1937 graduate -- somehow -- of Fenwick High School.)

Named after Bishop Edward D. Fenwick of Cincinnati, the school's Wikipedia page says:

Fenwick was originally intended to be a prep school for matriculation to the University of Notre Dame in the Midwest and Georgetown University on the East Coast, similar to Phillips Academy Andover's matriculation to Yale, Portsmouth Abbey School's matriculation to Fordham University and Boston College and Phillips Exeter Academy's matriculation to Harvard.

And all I can say is, who in the heck wrote that?

Such a pretentious paragraph would certainly be news to my dad (whose father didn't even attend high school), my uncles and several of my cousins who graduated from the Oak Park school.

But a certain governor of Illinois, who is currently running for reelection (and fighting for his political life!), is also an alumnus of Fenwick (Class of '67). That's him, above, at "Colby Burnett Day" a couple of years ago. Mr. Burnett, whom I originally thought was a student at Fenwick, was actually a 29-year-old teacher who won over $250,000 playing Jeopardy! in 2012. (Boy, am I getting old!)

As for the football team (oh yeah, that), the Friars played seven winning teams this year, besting Carmel (6-3), DePaul (5-4) and Marmion (6-3), while falling to Bishop Lynch of Dallas, TX (5-4), Loyola (7-2), Montini (6-3) and St. Francis (7-2). Coach Gene Nudo's squad is ranked No. 63 in MaxPreps, right behind Glenbard North (4-5), which didn't even make the playoffs.

(By the way, I interviewed Coach Nudo for the Oak Leaves last winter. He's a really nice man; you can read it here.)

In the meantime, here's Fenwick's 2014 schedule (with home team in CAPS):

Fenwick 31, CARMEL 20
Bishop Lynch 35, FENWICK 32
FENWICK 35, DeLaSalle 30
LOYOLA 42, Fenwick 0
FENWICK 31, DePaul 0
Fenwick 49, MARMION 13
FENWICK 17, St. Ignatius 9
MONTINI 24, Fenwick 7
St. Francis 21, FENWICK 14

Fenwick's opponent, the eponymous Highland Park High School, was originally named Deerfield Township High School. In 1900 it moved to its current location and was renamed Deerfield Shields High School, after James H. Shields, a community leader in educational affairs. In 1904, Lake Forest High School merged with Deerfield Shields, but in 1936, Lake Forest built its own high school and Deerfield Shields High School was renamed Highland Park High School. Got all that?

Now while Highland Park is the alma mater of many distinguished graduates, such as actor Gary Sinise, CIA Director Stansfield Turner and Jill Leiderman, the executive producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live, the town has also been used for location shots in several movies written and directed by John Hughes in the 1980s, including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Uncle Buck and Home Alone. (That's Cameron Frye's house on Beach Street from Ferris Bueller, above.)

But let's talk about this year's football team, the first undefeated Highland Park squad since 1921. The Giants, ranked No. 86 by MaxPreps (behind Marist, another 4-5 school that didn't make the postseason), get no respect from the Chicago newspapers. (Not even an "On the verge" in the Trib!)

How can that be? Well, maybe it has something to do with their schedule; the North Shore school played only one winning team this year, Niles North (5-4). (The No. 16-seed Vikings will face the unbeaten No. 1-seed Cary-Grove (9-0) tomorrow in what could be the weekend's biggest mismatch.) But the Giants did manage to beat everyone they faced this year, and as we used to say on the Merc floor, that's not nothing. Here's their full schedule:

HIGHLAND PARK 41, Lake Forest Academy 10
Highland Park 38, MUNDELEIN 21
Highland Park 24, EVANSTON 7
HIGHLAND PARK 28, Waukegan 7
Highland Park 17, DEERFIELD 14
Highland Park 42, MAINE WEST 0
HIGHLAND PARK 63, Maine East 0
HIGHLAND PARK 34, Niles North 14
Highland Park 34, GLENBROOK NORTH 33

Who do I like tomorrow night? Just as Pat Quinn may pull it out next Tuesday, his alma mater could hand the Giants their first defeat of the season, a la Brockton (MA) way back in 1921. Highland Park's weak schedule is a concern, while Fenwick's prepared them well for the postseason. And Coach Nudo is a wily competitor who could bring the Friars all the way to a Round Three matchup with -- uh, oh! -- Cary-Grove. (But, who knows, maybe the Oak Parkers will give the Trojans a scare just like they did with that 22-21 loss to Rockford Boylan back in 2012. I'm still kicking myself for missing that game!)

Either way, the forecast for tomorrow night in Highland Park is chilly -- but clear (unlike tonight!). You can follow me on Twitter @BoringOldWhtGuy for all the latest updates.

Happy Halloween!

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