By Brad Spencer
It was either a great high school football game or a horrible one. It was either frustratingly boring or consistently riveting.
There's no middle ground to sum up the OPRF football team's 55-41 victory over West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe York on Friday night at Oak Park Stadium. You either hated it or you loved it. It was either enthralling or mind-numbing. OPRF fans no doubt loved it because the victory halted York's 14-year dominance over the Huskies, but it wasn't pretty — or maybe it was.
The Huskies scored eight touchdowns, four in the opening quarter and four in the third quarter. Quite a feat. But scoring four touchdowns in the opening quarter usually means a team is on its way to a resounding rout over its opponent. That didn't happen on Friday night. OPRF's defense turned unpredictable, special teams unreliable, penalties piled up — there were 14 that resulted in 105 yards — and things got out of hand.
An 85-yard kickoff return led to a York touchdown in the third. Three minutes later, the Dukes found the end zone on another kick return, this one an 87-yarder to put the score at 41-34. York, who never took the lead, knotted the game at 41-41 with 3:38 to go in a third quarter that was eerily similar to the first with all its touchdown celebrations.
The Huskies scored two touchdowns before the frame ended, and it's a good thing they did because the end zones were barren wastelands for both teams for the entire final quarter.
This was not an exciting game, even with all the scoring and a rivalry made more compelling by the return of former OPRF head coach Jim Nudera to Oak Park Stadium (Now an assistant for York, Nudera could be seen across the field wildly hollering directives at players as if he were the head coach).
This game proved the OPRF program, now under second-year head coach John Hoerster, still has a long way to go to climb out of the depths of mediocrity. But there's reason for optimism about the future. His name is Lloyd Yates and if he stays healthy, by the time he's a senior he's going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the state. Yates can run and he can throw. Not only that, he's a keen listener which translates to avid learner. Yates is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and only a sophomore. He threw for 180 yards and rushed for 119 against York. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself against steeper competition in the coming weeks, but Hoerster's decision to insert such a young QB to run his offense this season was a good one.
Right now, Yates is neither frustratingly boring nor consistently riveting. He's lingering in the middle with plenty of time for development.
And that's a good thing.