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By Brad Spencer
The new era has officially begun.
Bright, burnt orange helmets pocked the football field at Oak Park Stadium Wednesday afternoon as the Huskies began their first official practice under new head coach John Hoerster.
Footballs zipped through the air, while receivers ran drills around practice dummies, and the special teams squad practiced kick-offs. Over near the west end zone, coaches were instructing a group of offensive and defensive personnel.
The perfect summer day — with the temperature hovering near 80 degrees and a soft breeze blowing — and the overall mood of the practice, seemed to give an indication that the future of football at OPRF may soon be headed on an upswing.
The program, which suffered through less-than-mediocre seasons for the last 12 years — only appearing briefly in the playoffs three times — took its most recent gut-busting blow with a 56-20 loss to Downers Grove North in the season finale last year. The Trojans, who held the Huskies scoreless in the second half, went into the game winless in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, as did OPRF. The loss pegged the Huskies, who finished 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the Silver Division, the bottom-feeders of the conference, though an extremely formidable conference it was and will remain this season.
Glenbard West is likely going to dominate yet again. The Hilltoppers, who made it as far as the Class 7A State Quarterfinals last season, will have their season opener at two-time defending state champ Wheaton Warrenville South broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Aug. 28 (11 a.m.).
Perhaps in a few years it may very well be the Huskies opening the season to a national audience. OPRF Athletics Director John Stelzer and the committee of coaches he formed to pick a new head coach, drew from the right football program when swiping up Hoerster from powerhouse Mt. Carmel, a program that was recently ranked fourth in Maxpreps.com’s Top 10 ranking of football dynasties in Illinois over the last five years.
But it’s way too soon to even think dynasty. First and foremost, the Huskies need to defeat a Silver Division opponent. They’ll begin that quest against … yep, that’s right you guessed it, Downers Grove North at home under the lights on Sept. 9 (7:30 p.m.).
A win over the Trojans -- just three games into the season -- would mean the Huskies have already taken a step in the right direction.
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