Before the football season kicked off for OPRF and Fenwick, my editor Brad Spencer wrote a column detailing the benefits of the Oak Park schools renewing their long dormant gridiron rivalry. Fresh off the momentum of excellent campaigns from both programs, Spencer's suggestion of an annual meeting of the two teams certainly makes sense.
Students, parents and fans of both football programs should weigh-in on the possibility of such a game. But in the meantime, here's a more provocative question from a short-term perspective: Which team had a better season this year?
We'll let the Huskies make the opening argument, buoyed by their strong 7-4 record under the guidance of second-year head coach John Hoerster. After a relatively nondescript 2-1 start to the season, OPRF caught fire winning three of four West Suburban (Silver) Conference games, all in wild fashion: 55-41 over York, 35-34 against Lyons Township and 42-41 versus Hinsdale Central. The Huskies proved to be a particular thorn in Hinsdale Central's side, turning away the Red Devils again 28-24 in the opening round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
In addition to an impressive collection of wins in one of the premier conferences in the Chicago area, the Huskies established an identity of playmakers on both side of the ball bolstered by a never-die attitude, which manifested itself via several rousing comeback victories.
"It's been a unique, fun and exciting season with so many wild games," Hoerster said after the Huskies' 2012 rollercoaster ride ended with a 28-7 loss to Waubonsie Valley. "The character on this team was unbelievable; guys worked hard and persevered every week. Our senior class really laid the foundation for the program and took us to another level."
Led by Jakari Cammon (173 carries, 1,605 yards, 20 TDs), Tom Odell (18 catches, 366 yards) and Sedrick McDonald (91 tackles, 2 INT), the OPRF seniors set a good model for future Huskies to follow.
A straight shot down East Avenue reveals good times were commonplace at Fenwick as well this season. Friars, you have the podium to argue for community bragging rights.
Fenwick (8-4) claimed the Chicago Catholic League White title this year with a 4-0 league record. The Friars also earned final play victories over solid teams like Bishop McNamara and Huntley via their clutch kicker Zach Laszkiewicz, and also put a scare into highly-regarded Loyola before losing 49-28 in Wilmette.
The Friars' IHSA postseason came to a shocking end with a 22-21 loss to defending state champion Rockford-Boylan in the second round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
Aside from the leadership of several seniors, notably Pat Hart (the Catholic League Player of the Year), Fenwick also leaned on the progeny of Fenwick legend John Lattner, as four of his grandkids — John Lattner, Danny Lattner, Robert Spillane and Ryan Smith — helped create a new buzz around the program.
So, the information is in, cast your vote. Did the 2012 football season belong to OPRF or Fenwick? Or both?
Come to think of it, a game between these two teams in the future would ultimately answer this question.
Marty Farmer is a longtime freelance reporter for Wednesday Journal and its sister paper the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.
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