Tate's Take: Week 1 Football Picks

Look for Huskies, Friars to start off season with victories

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

In recent years, when it comes to local high school athletics, both Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick High Schools have been known more for basketball than football. But did you know that both schools are in the top 50 in Illinois' high school history when it comes to wins on the gridiron? 

Yes, it's true - both OPRF amd Fenwick have been traditionally strong in football. Entering the 2018 season, the Huskies have amassed 656 wins, good for 11th all-time in Illinois. The Friars' 541 wins are in a tie for 50th all-time.

Therefore, one can deduce that at its core, the Oak Park-River Forest area is a football hotbed. Tonight, both OPRF & Fenwick open their football seasons as they hope to add to their impressive win totals.
 
Here's a closer look at both games.

WEEK 1 PREVIEWS & PICKS

Waubonsie Valley at Oak Park and River Forest 

Kickoff: Friday, August 24 at 7:30 p.m.

2017 Records: OPRF 5-5, Waubonsie Valley 4-5

Preview: Both OPRF and Waubonsie Valley enter 2018 coming off uncharacteristically down seasons. The Huskies of the West Suburban Silver Conference qualified for the playoffs for a school-record sixth consecutive season, but lost 44-0 at Marist in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs. The Warriors of the DuPage Valley Conference missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. These evenly-matched teams are looking for a good start this season, and a tough nonconference win would be a nice catalyst.

On offense, OPRF has some good experience at the skill positions, including running back Keith Robinson and wide receivers Trevon Brown and Craig Shelton. Quarterback Toby Kunkel also returns, but is currently engaged in a three-way battle for the starting position with senior Ethan Reinhardt and sophomore Jaden McGill. Whoever wins the job will play behind a young offensive line.

Unlike last year, when the Huskies' defense was vastly inexperienced, there are plenty of quality returnees in all three areas. Cincinnati recruit Izaiah Ruffin leads a good defensive line, Cedric Cheatham and Aidan Shea are the headliners of a solid linebacking unit, and Machi Young developed into a good cornerback in 2017. The defense has a chance to be much improved from last season.

The OPRF defense will need to slow down Waubonsie Valley's good receiving corps, led by Julian Cain. When the Huskies have the ball, they'll need to contain defensive lineman Avante Rogers.

I see this game going down to the wire and overtime is possible. But there's an old adage in football - when the teams are even, go with the home team. There should be a nice crowd for Opening Night at Oak Park Stadium, and the crowd will need to play a large role by making plenty of noise. In other words, the 12th Man has to help the Huskies get over the top.

Oh, and here's one other thing: it has been said that the Huskies love playing for head coach John Hoerster. Hoerster suffered a major heart attack last month while on vacation, but he has made a remarkable recovery and will be in the press box for the Waubonsie game. The home-field advantage plus the added emotional boost from Hoerster's presence will be enough as OPRF wins its season opener. 

Tate's Take: OPRF 28, Waubonsie Valley 21

GAME 2

Kenwood vs Fenwick at Triton College 

Kickoff: Friday, August 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Records: Kenwood 3-5 in 2017, Fenwick 7-5 in 2017

Preview: With almost every player who dressed for the controversial 2016 Class 7A semifinal loss to Plainfield North having graduated, the Fenwick High School football team has turned the page and will start a new chapter in 2018. While the Friars are inexperienced in several areas, there is enough experienced talent returning to ensure another solid season.

Danny Cronin turned in a good season at quarterback in 2017, and the junior looks to build upon it. However, he'll have to work behind a very green offensive as only one starter returns. There's also good talent in the other skill positions, but like the line, it's largely unproven on the varsity level.

The Fenwick defense will likely need to be the team's strength in the early stages of the season. The good news for the Friars is that there's good talent in the front seven, including defensive linemen Max Forst and Konrad Skworya and linebacker Solomon Singleton. However, development is needed in the secondary.

Kenwood is a Chicago Public League school that went 3-5 in 2017. This matchup presents a Catholic League school in Fenwick versus a mediocre Public League school.

On paper, the Friars should have the edge. I'm picking them to win this game. But don't let Kenwood's 2017 record fool you. The Broncos were a young team last season and return several good, experienced players, including quarterback Denzel Stephens, wide receivers Mark Aitken and Jaleel Payne, and defensive lineman Jackson Charlton-Penn. All of them are drawing plenty of college recruiting interest. 

This will not be an easy game for Fenwick. Given a depth advantage plus the home field, the Friars should prevail. 

Tate's Take: Fenwick 38, Kenwood 20

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