Tough opponents to start the season are a Carmel tradition. On Friday, they took on 6-foot-6, Iowa-bound quarterback Jack Beneventi, who was making his Fenwick debut after transferring from Benet Academy.
Carmel's defense hung tough at times and Beneventi hit some timely passes. Ultimately, a pair of turnovers made the difference in Fenwick's 31-20 nonconference victory in Mundelein.
Beneventi finished the night 13 of 26 through the air for 162 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Fenwick's other offensive star was running back Pat Donahue, who helped grind out the clock with 124 yards on 28 carries.
"We've got a lot of inexperienced people around Jack," Friars coach Gene Nudo said. "We have one starter back on offense. We have all new receivers, new running back. So those guys are kind of feeling their way around, too.
"He's a great kid to deal with. It's not an easy thing to come into a place your senior year and make all new friends. Everyone wants the quarterback to be a leader, but how do you lead when you don't know people?"
Beneventi played against Carmel when he was at Benet, but not on the road. So there was nothing familiar about his night, making his debut in Fenwick's silver and black uniforms.
"I was definitely looking forward to this game the entire summer," Beneventi said. "Teammates have been very welcoming since Day One, coaches too. They've helped me with everything I needed. The debut is just very exciting. Now it's here and it's passed and now it's just on with the season."
A highlight for Carmel was the play of sophomore tailback Rondel Jamison. Bottled up early, Jamison broke loose in the second half to finish with 114 yards on 14 carries. His last six rushes of the might went for an average of 15.8 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown.
"They did a nice job with their nose guard. We were having a hard time with him and then the linebacker cutting underneath," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "We kept telling Rondel, hug the double team. It took him a while to figure it out, hug it and just keep going. He did a good job."
Quarterback Michael Huiras broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run to give the Corsairs an early 7-0 lead. Meanwhile, through the first two Fenwick possessions, Beneventi was 3 of 6 for 22 yards.
Carmel got some bad luck, though, when defensive lineman Mark Curran had his helmet pulled off, then was given a penalty for continuing to play without headgear. The 15-yard penalty put Fenwick in good position and Beneventi threw a perfect fade on fourth-and-17 to John Showell at the one-yard line, setting up the tying touchdown. Donahue's 1-yard plunge midway through the second quarter gave the Friars a 14-7 lead at half.
Carmel still trailed by 7 in the third quarter when Jamison was stuffed on an inside run and the ball popped out of the pile very late. Fenwick's Justin Rodriguez picked up the fumble, returned it to the 8-yard line and the play stood. Beneventi found Joe Buzinski in the end zone on the next snap and the Friars led 21-7.
Jamison's 43-yard touchdown run made it 21-14 with 9:53 remaining. With Carmel needing a stop on defense, Fenwick unloaded an 15-play drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal by Michael Cahill. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Fenwick's Aaron Garland returned an interception for a touchdown, making it 31-14.
Huiras' 47-yard bomb to Noah Turner set up a 7-yard run by Joe Hoy with 1:11 left to complete the scoring.
"Our kids had a great effort," Bitto said. "We just have to get to a point where we execute, You can't give them two touchdowns (off turnovers)."
Late in halftime, after the band finished its performance, the skies opened up and many of the fans headed for cover during a five-minute deluge. The players warmed up during the downpour and the second half was played in relatively dry conditions.