The Huskies were halfway to their second win of the season when they completely unraveled.
Leading Lyons Township 14-3 after two quarters Friday night in LaGrange, Oak Park and River Forest stumbled through a variety of mistakes, surrendering 22 unanswered points on the way to a 25-14 loss. It was the West Suburban (Silver) Conference opener for both teams.
"We needed to play a lot smarter football; we did not do that," said OPRF coach Jim Nudera, whose team fell to 1-2 overall.
To be fair, the Lions got a lot better as the game progressed?#34;gaining only 43 yards in total offense in the first half, but rebounding for 150 in the second frame. And they had to get better, after losing their first two games of the season.
Lyons opened the second half by driving 65 yards in just under three minutes to cut the OPRF lead to 14-11. Quarterback Mike Bellisario hooked up with tight end Nick Pavilonis on a 40-yard passing play that sent Pavilonis sprinting untouched up the middle into the end zone. A successful two-point conversion followed.
"We were supposed to jam the tight end in our front," said Nudera of the defensive breakdown that led to the touchdown. "We didn't jam the tight end; he got through."
A similar breakdown led to the Lions' final touchdown of the night, Bellisario's 10-yard pass to Pavilonis in the end zone with 9:03 remaining in the game.
This came five seconds after the Huskies fumbled away a kickoff return at their own 10-yard-line.
OPRF also fumbled a punt return in the second quarter, but Lyons did not turn it into points.
The Huskies were hit with about 75 yards worth of penalties throughout the game, 35 in the second half.
The most costly of these penalties came with 26.3 seconds left in the third quarter. The Huskies were whistled for roughing the passer on an incomplete passing play on third-and-12 from the Lions' 18, giving LT a first-and-10 on the 34. The Lions took an 18-14 lead six plays later.
The Huskies racked up 121 total yards on offense in the first half, but only 54 in the second half. They also completed one pass on six attempts in the second frame. Their only promising offensive series of the second half, a 53-yard trek, sputtered at the Lions' 6 with a missed field goal.
OPRF recovered one Lyons fumble on the game. Senior Nick Von Brack snagged a dropped fair catch at the LT 49 with 7:57 left in the game. But a personal foul penalty forced the Huskies to start their drive on their own 37. The drive ended five plays later, when junior quarterback Justin Brown was sacked for an 11-yard loss on fourth-and-six from the Lions' 44.
Special teams was quite effective early on for OPRF. A swarm of Huskies blocked a punt with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter and senior Jeremy Potts pounced on the bouncing ball at the LT 15. Four plays later, Potts' 6-yard TD run and senior David Studer's extra point gave OPRF a 7-0 lead.
The Lions countered with a 51-yard field goal at the 3:46 mark of the second quarter. But the Huskies ended the first half with a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped by Potts' one yard burst into the end zone and Studer's extra point.
Potts' TD was set up three plays earlier by Brown's remarkable scrambling ability. On second-and-10 from the Lions' 15, Brown (making his first varsity start at QB in place of the injured Rick Foytik) eluded two LT defenders near the 30 and sprinted down the Lions' sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the 1.
The Huskies continue WSS play Saturday at home against Hinsdale Central (3-0, 0-0 in conference). Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.