Bring on Glenbard West. The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team upheld its end of their impending showdown with West Suburban Conference Silver Division champion Glenbard West by routing York 49-8 on Friday at Oak Park Stadium.
OPRF and Glenbard West, which defeated Hinsdale Central 42-7 on Friday night, both enter next week’s dream matchup on Saturday, Oct. 4 in Glen Ellyn with 5-0 records including 3-0 marks in the conference. Both teams are regarded as currently Top 5 caliber teams and viable threats to win a state championship. Although its only midway through the conference schedule, the rivals have clearly established themselves as the league’s best so far. Last year, the Hilltoppers escaped Oak Park Stadium with a 20-14 victory.
To the Huskies’ credit however, there was no looking ahead on the schedule on Friday as reflected by their focused approach against York. In fact, OPRF probably turned in its best all-around performance of the season against the Dukes.
“Every week you can find some bright spots and also some things to work on,” OPRF coach John Hoerster said. “I thought tonight and all week for that matter we had good focus. Our defense was outstanding. The defensive coaches came up with an unbelievable game plan and the players executed it. Our special teams also put us is in short yardage situations and our offense made big plays. We played well in all three phases in front of our great home crowd.”
Set up by a sensational 33-yard punt return from teammate Kamal Bey, OPRF running back Antonio Cannon opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run at the 9:35 mark of the first quarter. OPRF senior quarterback Lloyd Yates tacked on two more touchdown runs of five and two yards in the first quarter to build a commanding 21-0 lead for the Huskies. Yates turned in his typically steady performance, finishing 5-for-10 passing for 94 yards and seven carries for 82 yards plays and four touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 passing).
In the second quarter, the Huskies hit a bit of a lull until junior linebacker/defensive back Rolliann Sturkey provided a spark with an interception on a pass by York quarterback Bobby Dunn. From there the Yates-to-Ke’Juan Ratcliff combo took over as the two collaborated on pass plays of 45 and 35, the latter a touchdown play extending the OPRF advantage to 28-0 with 1:21 left until halftime. Ratcliff, the Huskies’ premier deep threat in a loaded wide receiving corps, totaled three catches for 72 yards.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, OPRF senior Dallas Flowers raced 92 yards for another score to make it 35-0. Flowers bided his time with a few stutter steps, hit the hole and was gone into the end zone on a brilliant run.
“The chances I’ve had to score are all because of my teammates making blocks for me,” Flowers said. “I was just waiting for a gap to come on my touchdown run and I had three blockers in front of me. I think our team is doing well because we’re discplined. We have to keep playing hard and not take any teams lightly.”
Later in the third quarter, Bey added arguably the run of the year when he returned a York punt about 20 yards to the Dukes’ 3. The yardage gained was not the impressive part of the play, but rather how Bey employed virtually every move in the elusive playmaker’s book along the way including a tip-toe along the sideline, 360 spin and hurdle towards the end zone. Three plays later, Yates scored on a 1-yard run giving the Huskies a 42-0 lead with 9:30 left in the third quarter.
“Our team is really exciting because we have so many guys who can make plays,” Bey said. “We’re stacked. I love the fact I can take a breather and the next guy in is as good as me. We all trust each other as brothers. We play for each other and for our school.”
York running back Lucas Alexander finally put the Dukes on the scoreboard with a 6-yard run plus a successful two-point conversion from Morgan Alexander midway through the fourth quarter which made the score 42-8. The Dukes struggled to establish any consistency on offense, however, as OPRF turned in a dominant defensive effort.
Junior linebacker Sam Francis tallied a team-high six tackles and Evan Bell finished with 5.5 tackles. Nose tackle James Cousin and Bey contributed five tackles apiece. Even more important than statistics, the Huskies punished the Dukes with a series of crushing tackles and tremendous team speed to the ball. They’ll need a similarly crisp effort against Glenbard West next week.
“We’re really starting to come along as a team, especially in this game,” Francis said. “On defense, we have a great secondary with Nate [Godwin], Breshawn [Wilkerson] and Dallis [Flowers]. And then we have Marty McAndrews as an experienced linebacker who has really helped the younger players.
“We’re getting it together which is good. It’s been an awesome year. Every week we keep our focus on that game. Glenbard West is no different in that way.”
OPRF scored the game’s final touchdown when reserve quarterback Sam Pochyly scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out.
OPRF vs. Glenbard West equals must-see high school football
The Huskies travel to Glen Ellyn on Saturday, Oct. 4 to face Glenbard West, Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. at historic Duchon Field. The Hilltoppers, also known by the nickname “Hitters,” feature a pair of outstanding running backs in Sam Brodner and Donahvon Vaughn and talented wideouts in Ben Marcus and Aidan Gould. Kyle Kramer is the Hilltoppers’ quarterback who has skillfully managed the Hilltoppers’ potent offense. On defense, Glenbard West is loaded with fast, physical players similar to OPRF. And oh yeah, like the apparently seamless fit between Hoerster and the Huskies, Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlett knows how to coach ’em up a little bit too in Glen Ellyn. Since taking over the program in 2007, Hetlet has guided the Hitters to a 78-12 record.
In fact, Glenbard West has won an astonishing 37 of its last 38 West Suburban Silver matchups. Over the past two years, OPRF is 14-2 and counting. Regardless of who wins next week, fans can expect a heckuva game between two highly entertaining and talented teams.
“I have friends at Glenbard West so it’ll be fun to see them,” Bey said. “It’s going to be fun to play against them, but when we’re on the field it’s war. We’re rolling good and coming in hot for Glenbard West. It’s going to be a battle and in the end it will be decided by who works harder.”
Added Hoerster: “We’ll watch film and clean some things up to get ready for a great Glenbard West team. [Glenbard West] is going to be ready. We just have to make sure we have a great week of practice, show up and give them a great game.”