By Marty Farmer
Reflective of his team's second-half surge after some spotty play initially, perseverance paid off for Oak Park and River Forest H.S. senior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs during the Huskies' 35-13 win over visiting Dundee-Crown Friday in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs.
The Purdue-bound Cobbs had an 86-yard touchdown called back on a holding penalty and another apparent 21-yard scoring snag ruled out of bounds by the officials in the first half. He bounced back to haul in touchdown catches of 23 and 24 yards from quarterback Lloyd Yates in the third quarter, however, extending the Huskies' lead to 28-7 after holding a too close for comfort 14-7 halftime advantage.
Cobbs finished the night with seven receptions for 161 yards, while the ever-efficient Yates completed 12 of 18 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Jamal Baggett had 102 yards on eight carries. Yates chipped in 77 yards rushing on 11 carries.
OPRF wide receiver Ryan Chancellor, who also had a touchdown catch negated by a holding penalty, scored on a 73-yard reception (initially tipped by the ubiquitous Cobbs) to give the Huskies a commanding 35-7 lead with 11:40 left in the game.
"We had a couple of mental mistakes in the first half," Cobbs said. "I just tried to run as fast as I could when I caught those [touchdown] passes. Ryan even caught a ball that I dropped so it all worked out."
The Huskies (9-1) opened the game in auspicious fashion, putting together a 6-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped off by Baggett's 31-yard touchdown scamper to lead 7-0 at 10:12 of the first quarter. Caleb Parson (36 carries, 184 yards) scored the first of his two touchdown runs for the Chargers on a 46-yard run to knot the score at 7-7 at 8:12 of the first quarter. Parson also scored on a 3-yard run with 3:25 left in the game to close out the scoring at 35-13.
Penalties, occasional ball security issues, and perhaps a touch of postseason nerves contributed to the Huskies' uneven first half.
OPRF took the lead for good against Dundee-Crown, at 14-7, on Yates' 6-yard touchdown run with 1:11 remaining in the opening quarter.
Defensively, the Huskies held strong against the Chargers' methodical offense which featured a heavy dosage of the Parson brothers, Caleb and Cordero, running the football. Justin Starks recorded a team-high 13 tackles, while Xavier Rowe (10 tackles) and Marty McAndrews chipped (nine tackles) also led OPRF. Emonte Logan and Frankie Christian contributed seven tackles apiece.
"At halftime, we let it be known that we have to step it up and play together if we want to advance to the next round [of the playoffs]," OPRF nose tackle Emonte Logan said. "We had to switch up our defense several times. I thought we adjusted our game plan well to what they were doing. I can't wait for our next game. We're going to approach it with a very positive attitude, but we have to be disciplined and cut down our mistakes."
Dundee-Crown (6-4) rushed 55 times for 266 yards, while OPRF racked up 237 yards rushing on 28 carries.
The Huskies host Maine South in the second round of the playoffs this weekend.
Maine South (8-2) routed Niles West 56-20 in another 8A opening round game over the weekend, as senior running back Clay Burdelik racked up 112 yards on 14 carries. The Hawks also feature promising sophomore quarterback Brian Collis, junior running backs Tommy Bazarek and Justin Fahey along with imposing 6-6, 275-pound offensive lineman Brendan Brosnan (Vanderbilt recruit). Coached by Dave Inserra, Maine South advanced to the Class 8A championship game six out of eight years (2003-2001), including a remarkable three-year run as state champs 2009 thru 2011.
"Obviously, Maine South is a tremendous program that has been there and done that," Hoerster said regarding the Hawks' incredible pedigree. "Consistent, excellent football programs like Maine South, Glenbard West and Mount Carmel are what we're striving for at OPRF.
"We talk about every year building our program and taking it one step further. Last year's team won the first round and then we got knocked out by a really good Waubonsie Valley team. We need to play disciplined football and just do what we do. If we stay consistent and play our brand of football, we'll have a shot against [Maine South]."