By Marty Farmer
When John Hoerster was an assistant coach under Frank Lenti at Mount Carmel, the OPRF football head coach certainly experienced his share of classic Chicago Catholic League battles and also plenty of blowout wins with the Caravan at Gately Stadium. Over the weekend at Gately, Hoerster and the Huskies enjoyed the latter style of victory, cruising to a 55-8 nonconference win over Fenger in both teams' season opener.
"I'm very excited that our kids had the chance to experience Gately Stadium," Hoerster said. "I think it's a historic field and it's good for our kids to see that kind of a special venue much like our home stadium. It's also beneficial for our players to get out of their comfort zone a little bit in terms of taking a road trip to start the season."
While plenty of tough games assuredly await OPRF in the rough and tumble West Suburban (Silver) Conference, the Huskies looked quite comfortable at Gately by setting the tone early with an overpowering ground game. The lopsided victory over the Titans lifted Hoerster's OPRF coaching record over the .500 mark, at 11-10, as he embarks on his third season at the helm.
Quarterback Lloyd Yates (4-for-7, 53 yards passing, two touchdowns) threw a five-yard touchdown pass to running back Jamal Baggett to put OPRF up 7-0 at the 9:34 mark of the first quarter. Baggett (three carries, 55 yards) scored again on an eight-yard scamper extending the Huskies' cushion to 14-0 with 7:57 left in the opening quarter. Yates connected with Kejuan Ratcliff on a 17-yard pass play for another touchdown before Antonio Cannon and Mike Hayden chipped in scoring runs of three yards and 12 yards, respectively, to propel the Huskies to a commanding 35-0 lead after one quarter.
"We're stacked across the board on offense this year," Yates said. "Our offensive line is huge this year led by returning starter Josh Hale and some talented juniors. We've got a lot of great running backs led by Jamal Baggett and Mike Hayden plus good receivers."
Fenger finally found the scoreboard in the second quarter when the Titans blocked an OPRF punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a safety. The Huskies' Isaiah White scored on a nine-yard run with 3:46 remaining until halftime, putting OPRF up 42-2.
After the Titans scored their lone touchdown on a 73-yard pass in the third quarter, OPRF running back Dawon Browley (three carries, 81 yards) closed out the scoring with a pair of impressive touchdown runs of 25 and 51 yards to cap off the Huskies' 55-8 victory.
Offensively, the Huskies turned in a stellar performance with 20 first downs and 368 yards of total offense, including 313 rushing yards on just 24 carries. By comparison, Fenger could only muster 82 yards offensively against the Huskies' swarming defense.
Andre Lee led the OPRF defense with four tackles, while Nathan Goodwin and Marty McAndrews chipped in three apiece. The versatile Baggett and Jack Kotte both had an interception against Fenger.
OPRF (1-0) hosts Leydenin a West Suburban Conference crossover matchup on Friday (7:30 p.m.). Leyden lost 28-14 to Buffalo Grovein its opener.
The Huskies hope to contend in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, which also features outstanding squads like Glenbard West, Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township.
In a pair of notable Week 1 nonconference upsets involving West Suburban Silver teams, Glenbard West (the Class 7A defending state champion) fell to Wheaton-Warrenville South 17-13 and Lyons Township blew a 21-point lead en route to 42-35 triple-overtime loss to visiting Warren.