By Marty Farmer
The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys soccer team honored its seniors at halftime of the Huskies' 3-3 tie with visiting Kelly last week. While that special moment, shared with family members, certainly will be remembered by OPRF's senior players, the back-and-forth battle between the lines also proved memorable for a variety of reasons.
With the Trojans leading 2-1 deep into the second half, the game was relocated from Oak Park Stadium across the street to the OPRF soccer fields on the south side of Lake Street. The venue change was made due to a bank of lights that went out in one corner of the football field, causing poor visibility, particularly for the Kelly goalkeeper and defenders.
After coaches, players and fans alike all made the short trek across the street, scoring broke loose on the new field. Off a set piece, OPRF senior midfielder Tim Huettel kicked the ball to forward Robbie Holmes who passed it over to midfielder Mike Hoke who scored on a header tying the game at 2-2. After Kelly regained the advantage at 3-2, Huettel kicked a perfect crossing pass to Steve Hawthorne, who scored on another header with three minutes remaining to ensure a 3-3 draw against Kelly, the Chicago Public League defending champions.
"This game was really par for the course for us this season," OPRF head coach Paul Wright said. "We haven't been outplayed really all season, but we haven't always finished our chances. We've also made some poor choices in the back [defense], which has punished us.
"We're playing hard and this is the nicest bunch of kids. The players showed a lot of resiliency to come back twice in this game. They finished on the field they started on as freshmen, so they came full circle."
Huettel, who was all over the field directing traffic, scored the game's first goal on a set piece from 23 yards out in the first half. He scored an apparent goal earlier in the game, but it was taken off the scoreboard since he didn't realize it was an indirect kick.
"I asked the referee if it was an indirect kick, and he didn't really say anything," Huettel said. "I probably should have double-checked. It was a little confusing. We made a few mistakes in the back, but we definitely put a lot of people in the box on our free kicks. High pressure is our game and we did a nice job getting up and down the field. It was a crazy game."
Holmes is optimistic that the Huskies (3-4-4) can still catch fire sooner rather than later.
"We've had some tough breaks and some overtime losses. I definitely feel like our best soccer is ahead of us," Holmes said. "[Tonight] was a lot of fun. I've been playing with some of my senior teammates since we were on Strikers [youth soccer program] together. We've known each other for years and that translates well onto the field. We have great team chemistry."
The seniors recognized at halftime were Huettel, Holmes, Hoke, Hawthorne, Jesse Kusimba, Erik Arsovski, Stevie Samuels, Roger Gusloff and Nico Linares.