Shattering the Status Quo

OPRF football needs a statement win against mighty Glenbard West

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

"The status quo sucks" is a quote from George Carlin that the Oak Park and River Forest High School football team adopted as a slogan last season.

Loosely translated for the Huskies' purposes, it means that while OPRF has qualified for the state playoffs a school-record five seasons in a row and been a consistent winner under head coach John Hoerster, more is expected.

Another opportunity to truly take that next step arrives this weekend against 2016 Class 8A state semifinalist Glenbard West at home, on Friday the 13th no less.

Last season, the Huskies rolled into Glen Ellyn brimming with confidence and a 6-0 record offering suggestions that OPRF was finally ready to beat Glenbard West. In span of about three hours, the Hilltoppers dropped 56 points, 625 yards of offense and the Huskies' morale in one fell swoop.

Glenbard West enters Friday's game, again, as a prohibitive favorite. The Hilltoppers (6-1) have already beaten conference contenders Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township. Other than a shocking 64-32 loss against Maine South in their season opener, the Hilltoppers have been coasting by the competition as smoothly as ducks on Lake Ellyn during a picturesque fall afternoon.

Glenbard West has a dynamic offense, featuring three good running backs in Tyquan Cox, Ryan Diver and Dre Thomas, a solid quarterback in Alex Hollensbee, and a stud receiver in Alec Pierce. The defense has improved greatly since the shellacking administered by Maine South.

And here's a daunting stat for OPRF fans. Since Chad Hetlet took over the program in 2007, Glenbard West is 118-17 with two state titles.

Nevertheless, it's time for the Huskies to beat the Hilltoppers. This so-called "rivalry" needs to become one. It has been 10 years since the Huskies dealt Glenbard West a loss.

To paraphrase Judge Smails' line to Danny Noonan right before the latter's final winning putt in the movie "Caddyshack."

"Well Huskies, we're waiting."

Keys to beating Glenbard West

In order to beat the Hilltoppers, OPRF (5-2) will need to run the ball very effectively and control time of possession. Led by Terrance Roundy (17 carries, 127 yards) and Keith Robinson (9 carries, 87 yards), OPRF ran for 242 yards against York in a 30-7 victory last week. Quarterbacks Brian May and Toby Kunkel and wide receivers Trevon Brown and Craig Shelton need to play very well against Glenbard West. It's a given that the Huskies must win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against the stout Hilltoppers' linemen.

Defensively, the Huskies can't give up any long runs outside against Glenbard West. Containment is a must. If OPRF can keep everything bottled up on the inside, the Huskies have a chance.

What would a win over Glenbard West mean?

Not only would it clinch the Huskies a sixth straight playoff berth, it would improve the perception some outsiders such as high school football analyst Edgy Tim have of Hoerster's program. Skeptics of OPRF football admit the program is solid, but needs more signature wins over the likes of Glenbard West, and in the postseason, as well.

I disagree with that assessment a bit. The Huskies are better than solid- they are good. Consecutive wins over perennial power Lincoln-Way East in 2014 and 2015, coupled with notable victories over Lyons Township, Hinsdale Central and Simeon in recent years, reinforce the quality of the program.

There's no doubt that OPRF football is consistently competitive under Hoerster again after going through a long period of mediocrity from the late 1980s until 2010. To be sure, there were a handful of playoff appearances during that time, but the Huskies  - despite always having quality athletes - could never sustain competitiveness. In fact, there were several seasons that the team won only two or three games, and the brand of football wasn't exciting, which led to widespread apathy in both the school and community. 
 
The Huskies had nobody to blame but themselves for the backhanded compliment, "sleeping giant" regarding the program's status.
 
That all changed upon Hoerster's arrival in 2011. Yes, OPRF was 3-6 in his first season, but I could tell that he was bringing a nice, fast-paced style of play to the program that would maximize the talents of his players. The excitement increased in 2012 with a 7-4 record and a playoff spot. Coolest part of the year? Winning at Hinsdale Central twice, including the first-round game. 2012 marked the first of five straight seasons of at least seven wins.
 
That's a hallmark of consistency in my book.

And yet, that elusive higher level remains hovering over the program.

The Huskies have the talent, coaching, facility and resources to get it done.

Only one other thing is still missing, and it's something I've written about before. The Huskies need more enthusiasm from the community. I know the parents and friends of the players are always supportive. I'm talking about the larger community as a whole.

Sure, attendance is up at Oak Park Stadium in recent years. The atmosphere in my opinion, however, is largely silent. A loud and supportive environment could do wonders for the Huskies and perhaps rattle the typically unflappable Hilltoppers.

So, for this Friday's home game against Glenbard West, I want to see the grandstand packed at the opening kickoff. I want to hear a loud, supportive, and encouraging atmosphere from the start. When the Huskies need a defensive stop on third down, I'd love to see the fans get up out of their seats and yell encouragement to the guys. They appreciate and feed off your noise. Sometimes instead of waiting for something good to happen, you need to help make it happen.
 
And there's this - I wrote earlier OPRF is playoff-eligible. That's true, but a team needs six wins to secure a spot. The Huskies need one more victory, and it would make the regular-season finale at Lyons Township October 20 considerably less stressful if they beat Glenbard West. So there's incentive for the Dog Pound student section as well as the rest of the stadium to be as loud and boisterous as possible Friday night. 

Shattering the status quo is never easy, but the OPRF players, coaches and fans can only make it happen one way.

Together.

 

*For more information about the OPRF/Glenbard West game - as well as other OPRF and Fenwick sports news - check out www.oakpark.com and Friar/Huskie Sports Nation on Facebook.

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: October 13th, 2017 4:00 PM

I thought football was dangerous and injurious to the players. What has changed?

Melvin Tate from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2017 1:03 PM

IT'S GAMEDAY!!! OPRF fans, it's Homecoming vs Glenbard West. Are you ready for some football? A Friday Night Party? Oak Park Stadium is sure to be rocking tonight as the Huskies seek to defeat the Hilltoppers for the first time since 2007 and clinch their 6th consecutive IHSA playoff berth (extending the school record). Glenbard West is the obvious favorite tonight, but let's consider two things that can help OPRF tonight. The first is the fact that it is Homecoming and so expect the Huskies to bring a strong effort. Also, there's this: sports can play an important role in a healing process whenever there's been damage done to a community, whether it is physical damage or psychological damage. The latter applies to OPRF as the school deals with the fallout from the Snapchat photo that had racial overtones. One thing is for certain - sports teams work for a common goal whether players are Black or White, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican. In my opinion, I feel that the Huskies will rally the community together and play inspired football tonight. I just sense something special is in the air, and so here's my Tate's Take: OPRF 34, Glenbard West 28

Melvin Tate from Oak Park  

Posted: October 12th, 2017 1:07 PM

For those attending tomorrow night's game, here are a couple of reminders: 1) Since it is Homecoming, there likely will be a capacity crowd, especially considering the opponent - one of the area's top teams. Figuring out when the main grandstand reaches full capacity is always a tricky proposition. My advice would be to go in once you have purchased your ticket because there is no guarantee that you will be able to get in later. 2) If you have a Huskie Booster Pass, no problem. Just show your pass at the entrance on the east side of the stadium. 3) Again, please get to the stadium as early as possible as seats will likely fill up quickly. I believe gates will open at 4:30 p.m. for the sophomore game. In the event the game sells out, you will have to leave the pedestrian mall and the Lake Street sidewalk as these areas need to remain unobstructed for emergency situations. 4) Finally, I know it has been a difficult week for the OPRF community given the racial incident that happened. Sports is a great way to begin the healing process, and while I realize that one game won't be a cure-all for the problems, there's not a better feeling than Blacks and Whites rooting for their favorite team. See you tomorrow night!

Melvin Tate from Oak Park  

Posted: October 11th, 2017 10:41 AM

If I came off a bit harsh towards the Oak Park - River Forest fanbase, I apologize. I know the community turns out in large numbers for the football games as they have become focal points for the community on Friday nights in the fall. Yet, I think there are many who come just to be seen or to socialize with their friends - and are not paying attention to the game. The kids playing on the field deserve better. When I go to games at Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township, and Glenbard West, I notice how energetic and engaged the fans and student sections are with their teams; they are emotionally invested and involved. It's no wonder those three programs enjoy success year in and out. Their fans always make lots of noise and are enthusiastic from the start. And I know that Fenwick students and fans are always loud at sporting events. Basically, what I'm saying is this - it's put up or shut up time for the OPRF Huskies' fanbase. You say you support football enthusiastically. Well, Oak Park Stadium sounds more like a library more often than not even with large crowds. So, again, this Friday night, let's bring the noise and let the Huskies know folks have their backs no matter the outcome.

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