Fidelak, Tigers come up big in pivotal regular-season wrap-up

Graeme Fidelak routinely catches passes, usually lots of them, as a receiver. Thursday night, the St. Mary’s senior threw them. And that’s not all.

His 10 completions included a 29-yard touchdown connection with Ben Bienvenu that started the Tigers’ scoring in a crucial 21-0 victory over LaSalle at Turpin Stadium.

Passing was just one phase of how Fidelak celebrated Senior Night with a spectacular all-around performance, partly in a new role as quarterback while St. Mary’s rested junior QB Adam Parker due to a sore ankle. Fidelak threw for 96 yards and led the winners with 55 rushing yards on nine carries.

Less than a minute after the TD pass, following a pivotal fumble recovery by fellow senior Gavin LaGrange, Fidelak scampered 14 yards to paydirt and a 14-0 SMHS lead 7:32 before halftime.

Meanwhile, he was everywhere on defense, coming out of the secondary to make 4.5 tackles, one for lost yards, as the Tigers shut out a strong offense. Actually, he didn’t come out of the secondary for his last, most memorable tackle – more on that in a bit.

“Seven (Fidelak’s jersey number) played a great game,” said Tigers’ coach Aaron York. “I don’t think he came off the field except for two snaps. He was a senior that wanted to win tonight, was what that was. The way he played tonight, it was just exciting to coach him.

“Physically, we were impressive. We took control and established dominance,” said York, noting a pair of massive hits, one early and one late.

“We ran a quarterback I-SO. One of the two plays Graeme watched, we put Ben in at QB, and (fullback) Drake Griffin led (blocking) on a linebacker. There’s several hits I’ve seen through the years that were just decleating somebody, and this was one. Drake decleated that poor linebacker. That kinda took the soul away from them. It was one of those you send away to the highlight shows.”

Later, Fidelak provided another. St. Mary’s was cruising with a 21-0 lead that was opened on a 1-yard Bienvenu run finishing an SMHS march on its first series after halftime. In the fourth period, the Tigers were near the red zone, moving steadily.

“Graeme came over and said he wanted to run a certain concept, so we threw it into the end zone, and it got intercepted. Their kid brought it out,” said York, “and Graeme found him at about the 5. That hit, I thought he shattered the boy. It was massive. Highlight reel, for sure.”

Speaking of interceptions, Mixon Bankston made a couple for the Tigers in his first action in five games due to injury.

“Getting Mixon back at safety was a shot in the arm for us,” said York. “That second interception was a heck of a catch on the sideline.”

York expected a great effort by his team. He didn’t dream SMHS would blank the visitors, though.

“Our defensive staff did a tremendous job getting our boys ready, and to get a shutout tonight was awesome. I can’t say enough good things about those coaches and the way our defense played.”

The outcome improved St. Mary’s to 8-2 while dropping LaSalle to 7-3. It probably cost the visitors a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs, and should provide a reward for SMHS in the Division IV bracket.

“To win on Senior Night, that’s special, but I don’t think it was our last home game,” York said. “This should move us up (from No. 8) as high as sixth in the power rankings and that gives us another home game next week in the playoffs. It was a big win for us.”

Playoff pairings will be announced Sunday at noon on LHSAA.org.


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