By Marty Farmer
Oak Park and River Forest football head coach John Hoerster always talks about the importance of "program" wins to augment the Huskies' burgeoning reputation as one of the elite teams in the area. The Huskies earned an incredibly hard-fought 16-10 overtime victory against highly regarded Downers Grove North on Friday at a packed Oak Park Stadium. The West Suburban (Silver) Conference win is clearly one of the most significant to date during Hoerster's OPRF coaching stint. Since a 3-6 campaign in his first season, Hoerster has guided the Huskies to 11 wins in 15 games.
In overtime Friday, the Huskies' Xavier Rowe (six tackles) caused a DGN fumble that was recovered by Justin Starks. OPRF quarterback Lloyd Yates (11-for-14, 116 yards) promptly scored on a two-yard touchdown run to provide a spirited exclamation point on the Huskies' signature win.
"The kids played incredibly hard and stayed positive the entire game," Hoerster said. "There was never a moment where they didn't feel like they could win. Downers Grove North is an outstanding football team, so I'm very proud of our players for showing tremendous determination to pull this one out."
The Trojans (2-2, 0-2) forced overtime in dramatic fashion when kicker Gareth Jones nailed a 42-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The Huskies held a 10-7 lead with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter after Yates connected with Rowe on a 20-yard touchdown pass play. Sebastian Medala kicked the PAT. Medala also scored the game's opening points when he converted a 27-yard field goal attempt at 8:17 of the third quarter to stake OPRF to a 3-0 lead.
The Trojans enjoyed their only lead of the game, at 7-3, as quarterback David Edwards scored on a one-yard plunge with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter.
OPRF senior running back Jamal Baggett rushed eight times for 97 yards. Overall, the Huskies' vaunted ground game turned in another solid effort racking up 212 yards on 30 rushing attempts against a stout Downers Grove North defense. Wide receiver Simmie Cobbs had seven catches for 51 yards and fellow OPRF wideout Kejuan Ratcliff hauled in a pair of receptions for 40 yards.
Defensively, Sam Cottingham-Beard tallied a team-high nine tackles for OPRF, while Justin Starks and Andre Lee recorded eight tackles apiece and Nathan Godwin contributed six tackles. Starks also recovered two fumbles.
OPRF (4-0, 2-0) takes on host York Friday (7:30 p.m.) in another key conference matchup.
The Huskies have already notched impressive league victories against Proviso West and Downers Grove North. Although it's early in the race, Glenbard West, OPRF and Hinsdale Central appear to be the top contenders for the conference title.
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