By Marty Farmer
Bring on Glenbard West. The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team cruised past host York 41-13 on Friday, enabling the Huskies to enter next week's showdown against Glenbard West with a perfect 5-0 record.
"This was a great win, and we're excited for next week's game against Glenbard West," said OPRF running back Jamal Baggett after the Huskies' convincing win over York. "It's going to be a tough task [against Glenbard West], but we feel very confident. I can't wait. It's going to be a special atmosphere for our team and the entire Oak Park community. We need everybody to come out and support us to get 6-0."
With all due respect to their upcoming titanic tilt with Glenbard West, The Huskies' focus rightfully appeared on only York Friday night. OPRF quarterback Lloyd Yates raced for a 56-yard touchdown run on the Huskies' first play of scrimmage to seize a 7-0 lead at the 10:23 mark of the first quarter. After holding the Dukes to a three-and-out series, OPRF struck again on its next possession with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive, capped off by Yates' 1-yard touchdown plunge, extending the lead to 14-0 midway through the opening quarter. The Dukes cut the OPRF lead in half, at 14-7, when York quarterback Charlie Rose fired a 15-yard strike to Kyle Preuss for a touchdown with 1:11 left in the first.
On the next play, OPRF regained the momentum for good as the explosive Baggett returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a score and 21-7 OPRF lead.
"We had a great week of preparation for York," he said. "We started off really fast and finished strong. That's something we preach and focus on all the time."
The Huskies tacked on an additional 20 unanswered points to build a commanding 41-7 lead with 11:46 remaining in the game. Scoring highlights for OPRF included a Yates 37-yard touchdown pass to Simmie Cobbs, a 90-yard touchdown sprint by Baggett, and another Yates touchdown toss of 55 yards to Jeremy Moore. York scored a touchdown late on Joe Biggins' 2-yard push to make the final score 41-13.
While OPRF head coach John Hoerster (a York alum) was pleased with the victory, he still sees plenty of room for improvement with the Huskies, even with their sparkling 5-0 record.
"I think we played well in a lot of spots but we're still shooting ourselves in the foot with some mental errors like turnovers and missed opportunities," Hoerster said. "We were fortunate [tonight] that those miscues didn't hold us back and we still made some plays. We'll keep working on eliminating those mistakes.
"I'm proud of our team; we're off to a great start this season. The great programs like Mount Carmel, Loyola and Glenbard West all show consistency. That's what we're building towards here at Oak Park."
The Huskies' outstanding trio of offensive stars in Yates, Baggett and Cobbs paced a versatile and deep offensive attack. Yates ran 11 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns coupled with 10 of 17 passing for 171 yards and another two touchdowns with his arm. Baggett had 134 yards rushing on 10 carries and the aforementioned 97-yard kickoff return for a score. Cobbs caught six balls for 104 yards and a touchdown. Moore (three catches, 62 yards) and sophomore running back Antonio Cannon (six carries, 69 yards) also contributed offensively. The offensive line has played an instrumental role this season as well in the Huskies' impressive ground game, which has tallied over 1,500 yards rushing and scored 16 TDs.
On defense, linebacker Sam Cottingham-Beard led the Huskies with nine tackles and Andre Lee tallied seven tackles against the Dukes. Baggett, and Nathan Godwin chipped in five tackles apiece. Senior defensive back/safety Justin Starks continued his superb work in the secondary with five tackles and an interception. Sophomore defensive end/linebacker Allen Stallings has also made a notable impact this season.
"Everybody is bigger, stronger and faster at the varsity level so I've had to adapt to the speed change," said Stallings, who was called up to the varsity as a freshman but has emerged as key contributor this year. "We've got a lot depth on our team. Defensively, we play together and play every one like it's our last one."
OPRF (5-0, 3-0 West Suburban Silver Conference) hosts Glenbard West (3-1, 1-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m. for its homecoming game. The Hilltoppers, who defeated OPRF 49-0 last year, are the IHSA Class 7A defending state champs.
Glenbard West hosts Hinsdale Central Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in another key conference matchup.The Hilltoppers are known for an excellent running game featuring Scott Andrews and Devante Toney and swarming defense loaded with speed. In its two conference games, Glenbard West blanked Downers Grove North 21-0 and overwhelmed Lyons Township 44-7.