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Mandala's early touchdown pass sparks win over Fenwick

On the first play from scrimmage Friday night against Fenwick, IC Catholic Prep quarterback Dennis Mandala hit Eric Karner for a 81-yard touchdown pass.

The devastating play just 16 seconds in set the tone for the Knights, who used their big-play ability to roll to a 42-9 Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Orange Division victory over the Friars at Plunkett Park in Elmhurst.

"I'm proud of our kids. They came out and did what we wanted them to do," said IC Catholic coach Bill Krefft. "That's a good team we beat in Fenwick, they were fighting for their playoff lives. All the credit goes to the kids."

IC Catholic's second possession didn't go as well as Aaron Harvey's fumble was recovered by Fenwick's Nate Marshall, who returned it to the Knights' 8. But the defense held and the Friars settled for a 23-yard Noah Sur field goal.

After that, IC Catholic (7-2, 2-1 in CCL/ESCC Orange) got things rolling. On the Knights' next possession, Joey Gliatta broke off a 53-yard run to set up his 3-yard score that made it 14-3 IC Prep at the 2:04 mark of the first quarter.

The big plays kept coming for the Knights in the second quarter. On third and 18 from their 32, Gliatta dashed down the left sideline for a 68-yard score and a 21-3 lead with 9:20 left in the half.

"Joey always has a great game," Mandala said of the senior running back, who finished with 162 yards and 2 touchdowns on just seven carries. "Credit the linemen for letting Joey have the great game and giving me time to throw the ball."

Almost three minutes later, Mandala's 41-yard completion to Iowa recruit KJ Parker set up Harvey's 8-yard touchdown run that raised the Knights' lead to 28-3.

Then with 2:59 left, Mandala found Dominik Hulak for a 60-yard score that gave IC Catholic a commanding 35-3 halftime lead.

"My receivers have always been there for me, catching the ball and doing their thing," said Mandala, who completed all six of his passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns, all in the first half.

Harvey completed the Knights' scoring with a 5-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Fenwick (4-5, 1-2), which dropped its last four games, moved the ball at times thanks to solid play from senior quarterback Marek Hill (20 of 34, 129 yards passing plus 46 yards on 10 carries). But the Friars had difficulty once near IC Catholic's red zone and couldn't finish drives.

Fenwick's only touchdown came with 2:47 left in the game when backup quarterback Frankie Hosty hit Avion Brown for a 3-yard touchdown.

"We didn't show up to play our best game unfortunately," said Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia, who added that the Friars will not compete in the Prep Bowl playoffs due to injuries.

Battaglia also felt missed opportunities in the previous three weeks, including a double-overtime loss at DePaul Prep last week, put Fenwick in a difficult must-win situation against the Knights.

"That's how life goes," he said. "We made our bed, and this is the result."

Meanwhile, IC Catholic, the defending IHSA Class 3A champions, will find out this weekend which class they'll be in as well as their first-round opponent. Although there's still stuff to work on, the Knights believe they'll be prepared for the challenges ahead.

"We feel good," Krefft said. "We're not looking into who we've got, we're trying to get ourselves right. There's a lot that we need to fix, but we're excited for the opportunity to go in. We didn't know if we'd have the opportunity at the start of the season, so we're blessed."

"We're going to compete with every team that they throw at us," Mandala said.