By Brad Spencer
When the OPRF football team began its West Suburban (Silver) Conference opener against a strong Downers Grove North squad with a holding call on the kickoff followed by an illegal procedure penalty, it seemed as if the season might possibly be headed into rough waters. But OPRF's defense steadied the ship, and while they were forced to settle for a 16-14 loss, the Huskies showed they're determined to keep moving toward securing the program's first winning season since 2009.
An offense that had worked so well in its first two wins of the season didn't get going until the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late. OPRF's defense, led by Alex Trage, Tom O'Dell and Sedrick McDonald, held the Trojans to a mere field goal in the first half. Downers North kicker Gareth Jones kicked a 22-yarder between the uprights to put his team on the board. Jones went on to score a touchdown from five yards out on a fake field goal in the third quarter. Special teams play accounted for all three of Downers North's scores.
"Downers North is very well coached, and they put together some good drives offensively. We were able to stop them but they did the same thing to us," said OPRF head coach John Hoerster. "We left some points on the field. They were ready to play and we were just a little off.
Trailing 10-0, OPRF finally got on the board with 11:33 left in the fourth quarter. Huskies quarterback Lloyd Yates connected with Samora Nesbitt for a 54-yard touchdown. But Downers North's Vontae Diggs returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards for a touchdown and the Huskies (2-1, 0-1) trailed 16-7.
OPRF marched 80 yards in six plays before Yates connected with Ryan Chancellor on a nine yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left in the game. The Huskies' onside kick was recovered by the Trojans (3-0, 1-0), who effectively ran out the clock.
OPRF senior running back Jakari Cammon finished with 96 yards rushing on 20 attempts. Yates connected on 9-of-16 pass attempts for 187 yards, the longest a 57 yarder to O'Dell that helped set up the final touchdown of the game. When Yates wasn't quarterbacking he was kicking. The sophomore took over kick-off and punting duties.
On defense, Xavier Rowe racked up a team leading 10 tackles for the Huskies. Of O'Dell's seven tackles, four were for losses.
OPRF right tackle Josh Hale and right guard Brian Cole both suffered shoulder injuries in the second half, but Hoerster said they're likely to be back in the lineup this weekend against York. The Huskies host the Dukes on Friday (7:30 p.m.). OPRF lost to York 35-7 last season.
"York is a much different team that Downers. They pass much more than run, so we'll need to put a good rush on the quarterback and make sure our secondary is in order," said Hoerster.