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By Brad Spencer
After finishing the regular season with a turnover plagued 26-23 loss to Proviso West at home on Friday night, the OPRF football team now turns its attention to another West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe to begin the first round of the Class 8A State playoffs.
The 12th-seeded Huskies will return to Hinsdale Central on Friday night (7:30 p.m.), the site of their thrilling 42-41 overtime victory against the Red Devils just a few weeks ago. The team will look to accomplish another milestone after reaching six wins on the season for the first time since 2006. The program has not won a playoff game since 1992.
But the Red Devils, seeded fifth in the playoffs, will no doubt be out to avenge Oct. 5th's loss that concluded with a 10-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion by OPRF running back Jakari Cammon in OT. The two teams match-up well together. In that first meeting, Hinsdale Central scored four touchdowns in eight minutes, but OPRF held them to just a field goal in the second half.
The key again for the Huskies will not only fall on the hands of defensive players like Nile Sykes, Sedrick McDonald and Tom Odell, who did not play in last week's game against Proviso West due to an undisclosed injury though is expected back for the playoffs, but also on Cammon as well. The senior rushed for 209 yards against the Red Devils and 158 against Proviso West on Friday night. The only problem is he coughed up the ball multiple times in both games. The Huskies turned the ball over a total of four times against the Red Devils and seven times — four coming in the first half — against the Panthers.
For second-year head coach John Hoerster the turnovers have been frustrating.
"I was proud of our resilience and our 'never say die' attitude," he said, following the loss to Proviso West. "However, we should have never put ourselves in that situation. You can't beat a good team like Proviso West with seven turnovers."
Grit is something the Huskies have not relinquished all season. They outlasted York for a 55-41 victory, and they came-from-behind to edge Lyons Township 35-34. Then there was the one-point overtime win over Hinsdale Central. The team even made a valiant comeback attempt against the Panthers, cutting a 26-0 deficit to three in the second half of Friday night's game.
Cammon (28 carries, 158 yards, 2 TDs) put OPRF on the board for the first time with 2:50 left in the third on a 1-yard touchdown plunge. He did the same thing at the 10:21 mark of the fourth and scored a 2-point conversion to put his team within 26-15.
With less than two minutes left in the game, sophomore quarterback Lloyd Yates (10-of-20, 107 yards, TD, 3 INT) connected with Xavier Rowe up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown. Cammon scored again on the 2-point conversion. A Hail Mary pass by Yates was knocked down in the end zone in the closing seconds.
Hoerster said he's aware of how long it's been since the program has won a playoff game. He said he's as eager as anyone to extend the season.
"I just want our coaches and kids to be able to spend as much time together as possible," he said. "This is a fun group to be around. It would be great to win Round One from an historical perspective, but, selfishly, I just want to spend more time with these guys."
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