Oak Park and River Forest's first foray into the postseason since 1998 didn't last long. The Huskies were steamrolled by Stevenson 51-10 in the first round of the Class 8A State playoffs in Lincolnshire on Friday night.
The Patriots (10-0 overall) emulated their National Football League counterpart by overwhelming OPRF on both sides of the ball throughout the contest. After forcing the Huskies (5-5, 3-3) to punt on their first possession, the Patriots mounted an impressive 12-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The drive was merely a prelude to a rough night for OPRF, with Stevenson leaping to a 31-0 halftime lead behind Carl Johnson's three first-half rushing TDs.
"They are very good football team," said OPRF coach Jim Nudera. "They are number one in my book. They have a little bit more push than Downer's North and even though Downer's was last year's State champs, I think Stevenson is as good as it gets. They really dominated us all night."
Except for two possessions, Stevenson scored on every possession it had in the first half. The fourth-ranked Patriots looked very comfortable in their 17th playoff appearance, which was a key factor, according to Nudera.
"This was just our first playoff appearance [in a long time] and I don't think the kids knew what to expect," he said. "They have a senior dominated team, which you can tell in the way they carry themselves. When you get to this point, experience really starts to matter more and more. Stevenson is solid on both sides of the ball, which is rare to see at the high school level. They have easily one of the best defenses in the state. They have only given up 60 points in 10 games. That is incredible."
It also doesn't hurt that the Patriots have a few players with an NFL pedigree: the sons of former Bears Robin Earl and Jim Morrissey. Preston Earl plays quarterback and Mike Morrissey linebacker. Despite Stevenson's obvious advantages, Nudera thought his team could have played better.
"I think we could have performed better, we really got caught up in the excitement," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do. This team broke the mold this season, but now they need the mindset to be a perennial champion. I think our kids bought in to the program this year, but they did not know what to expect in a playoff game and I think they found out the hard way against Stevenson. I know the kids were disappointed in the outcome. I was really proud of this group of seniors because they worked hard and they accomplished a lot.
After the game, I told them I didn't care about the score, I have been proud of them all through the year. They brought pride to our school. Hopefully, the younger kids will get the fever and take things to the next level next season."