By Marty Farmer
Memo to all area high school football fans — and to Oak Park and River Forest High and Fenwick head football coaches John Hoerster and Gene Nudo, in particular — remember the names Eric Locke Jr., Tyrell Gaylord, Kelby Grey and the Hachem brothers, Julien and Elias.
These players, along with their teammates on the Oak Park-River Forest Youth Football Big 10-Featherweight team, could very well represent the future of Huskie and Friar football.
The team recently advanced all the way to the Super Bowl in the Big-10 Featherweight Division of the Chicagoland Youth Football League, which consists of 37 teams (players age 9-11). In the TCYFL Super Bowl, the Huskies squared off against Bartlett at Glenbard North High School on Nov. 16.
After squandering a scoring opportunity with a fumble in the red zone on their opening possession, the Huskies hit their stride offensively on their next series. Running a Wildcat formation, the elusive Locke Jr. raced into the end zone from four yards out to give the Huskies a 6-0 lead over the Hawks. Although Bartlett responded with 14 unanswered points en route to the championship, the Huskies (6-5) turned in a terrific performance to cap the season.
"It was pretty cold out there and snowing during the game," Tyrone Gaylord said. "I think the kids were actually kind of excited to play in the snow."
The team benefitted from ample community support.
"We had parents, friends and family come out to the game with signs and noisemakers," Gaylord said. "That support meant a lot to everybody on the team. Of course, the kids were a little upset to go all the way and lose in the championship game, but we were the only team in the [OPRFYF league] to go to the Super Bowl. Overall, I think the kids were very happy to reach the championship game, and they received a big second-place trophy."
Huskies improved over course of season
After losing their first two games, the Huskies reeled off five straight victories and defeated Prairie Ridge 6-2 in the conference championship game.
"Even though we lost the first two games, the scores were close," Gaylord said. "We learned how to win and play football the right way. A lot of our success during the winning streak came from limiting our mistakes and just playing solid football."
Offensively, Locke Jr. and Tyrell Gaylord (Tyrone's son) served as the Huskies' top scoring threats, while Grey and Julien Hachem, at middle linebacker and defensive tackle, respectively, anchored a stout defense.
Most importantly, the players improved across the board and learned about the game of football in an enjoyable, supportive environment.
"We're a competitive program, but the mission of [OPRFYF] is focusing on the growth of kids as football players and teaching them about the game," Gaylord said. "Our team had a good mix of first-time players and some experienced kids. It was a good group to coach, one of the best I've had. They had fun and got along with each other. There weren't many arguments and everybody was motivated to play well."
Along with Gaylord, Eric Locke Sr. and Fred Mrozek coached the team.
"Our coaching staff was great," Gaylord said. "Our coaches really know the game, so it's nice having that kind of football experience on the staff. We would often separate the kids into position groups like running backs, linebackers, offensive line, and the kids responded well to the coaching."
Tyrell Gaylord had as much fun as his dad during the Huskies' playoff run.
"We had a lot of fun and going to the Super Bowl was great," Tyrell said. "Everybody on the team was friends."
The OPRFYF is an organization that currently boasts 11 teams with approximately 220 players (age 6-14). The kids are primarily from the Oak Park and River Forest area. For more information about Oak Park-River Forest Youth Football, log on to www.oprfyf.org
The impact of OPRFYF certainly is being felt at the high school level locally. Chris Guillen, registrar for OPRFYF estimated that 18 of the 22 starters on OPRF's 2013 varsity football team played for the Little Huskies.
"We had all those guys, [OPRF players] Jamal Baggett, Simmie Cobbs and Andre Lee," OPRFYF coach Elbert Reniva said. "I see them around town, they say hello and ask about the Little Huskies. Our younger players aspire to be like them one day."
Answer Book 2018
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