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It’s not the game against Class 7A state runner-up Glenbard West that might have the biggest impact on OPRF head football coach Jim Nudera this season. A rematch against Hinsdale Central, the team that edged the Huskies on a controversial play in double overtime last year, will be important but not in the same realm of say OPRF’s home opener against York on Sept. 10.
The Dukes will be led by a familiar face to Nudera – his son, Jim Jr., the team’s 6-foot-2, 225-pound starting quarterback.
“Our teams have played one another before, but now Jimmy is the starting quarterback, so, yeah, it will be a bit odd for me and our entire family,” said Nudera. “I won’t get to see him play much all year because our schedules conflict, but that’s a game that I will be able to watch him – somewhat, for I’ll be busy trying to defeat York, too.”
Will he blitz? That responsibility won’t fall on Nudera’s shoulders this season as he has switched from defensive coordinator to heading up the offense, but there remains a slight conflict of interest. Tim Hasso, OPRF’s new defensive coordinator, is Nudera’s brother-in-law. Hasso is the brother of Nudera’s wife, and therefore the uncle of Jim Jr.
“We will treat York like any other opponent,” Nudera said, “that’s for sure.”
As for the team itself, after earning a playoff birth last season and finishing with a 5-5 overall record, Huskie fans can expect to see more progress. The offense returns several players, including running back Tony Stapleton (5-11, 190), fullback/linebacker Joe Donlan (6-2, 210), guard Brad Oxnevad (6-4, 260), tackle Isaac Chadri (6-0, 260), wide receiver Zach Draus (5-9, 185) and three-year varsity tackle Ben Carbery (6-5, 270), who has drawn the attention of several college recruiters.
Along with Carbery, Stapleton earned all-conference honors last season. The senior rushed for over 1,200 yards. Nudera said Stapleton and the offensive line will be put to use frequently again this season.
“Our main focus will be running the ball again this season,” he said. “We have the experienced linemen and the bulk to open some holes, so that will be our main game plan on offense.”
John Phelan, who started at strong safety last season, takes over at quarterback for the departed Jack Rogalla. The 6-2, 200-pound junior last played the position as a freshman, but Nudera said he’s up for the challenge.
“John is very physical and very strong, and he throws a nice ball,” he said. “We’re going to ease him into it, if you will, but I think he’ll do fine.”
Others expected to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball include center Mike Raleigh (5-10, 220), guard Alex Moon (6-4, 260), tight end Charlie Kowalski (6-4, 195) and wide receiver Frances Bourke (5-10, 175).
Along with Donlan, who will also play linebacker, Conor Harmon (5-10, 180) returns on defense. Defensive end Drevon Brown (5-10, 195), and linebackers Matt McCormak (5-11, 185), Luke McCarthy (6-2, 195) and Galvin Loughran (5-11, 180) are expected to add some depth to that side of the ball.
“In terms of skill level and athleticism, this is probably one of the best teams I’ve coached,” said Nudera. “We have the tools, and now we need to get out there and play like an experienced football team.”
The Huskies begin the season by traveling to Glenbard North this Friday. Due to field construction, the Hinsdale South game on Sept. 2 has been moved to Hinsdale Central’s field. OPRF kicks off conference play against York in its home opener on Sept. 10 (7:30 p.m.).
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