DeKALB — Martin and Conor Paris always challenged each other.
The Fenwick defenders and twin brothers always wanted to do better than the other did in the previous game. They worked off of each other to become better and perform better.
The two fed off of each other when it mattered most in Saturday’s 34-15 win over Kankakee in the Class 5A state title game, leading the Friars’ defense in the program’s first state championship win.
“This whole year we’ve been compounding on each other,” Martin said. “I have a big game, he has to come back and play even better. If I make a play, he has to come back and make a play the next play.”
Martin led the Fenwick defense with nine solo tackles while Conor intercepted a pass in the third quarter and finished with nine total tackles, six of them solo. Two of Conor’s tackles were for a loss of 13 yards.
Fenwick’s defensive players knew they wanted to limit Kankakee’s mobile quarterback with the box when he was on the move. Tomele Staples finished with 178 passing yards and a touchdown, but the Kays finished the day with 38 rushing yards and only scored on two possessions at the end of the first half and start of the second.
“Hard work from all the guys,” Martin said. “The guys in the front did a great job, the secondary held its man for almost six, seven seconds when their quarterback scrambled. I think we did a great job all around on defense.”
Conor’s interception came at a critical time for the Friars. Kankakee had scored on its last two drives and Staples had just completed a pass to advance the Kays to midfield. Staples attempted to fit in a ball on the run down the sidelines, but Conor got in front and picked off the pass just before heading out of bounds.
“I came and knew that I don’t know if I’m playing next year, I knew I had to leave everything on the field,” Conor said. “I was just thinking about how much it would suck to lose a state championship. That drove me to put it all on the field.”
The seniors always wanted to be competitive. Conor grew late and started spending more time in the weight room and gaining muscle during his sophomore season. He became bigger than Martin so Conor plays linebacker while Martin is a defensive back.
They’ve always enjoyed trying to one-up each other, but when it mattered the most and it seemed like there wouldn’t be another chance to do better, they fed off of each other and succeeded to historic levels.
“Growing like we did and then being able to put it all on the line like that,” Martin said. “It’s great to see him make plays.”