The seed was ambitiously planted back in early August. Wednesday Journal publisher Dan Haley, digital editor Ashley Lisenby, web developer Mike Risher, photographer David Pierini along with advertising/sales folks like Dawn Ferencak and Alicia Plomin, and finally, yours truly, huddled in the company conference room.
We discussed the possibility of launching an innovative and interesting portal online designed to offer in-depth coverage of a specific sport in a whole new light for our readers. Among many coverage-worthy teams, we chose OPRF football based on the success of the 2013 season and the team’s considerable interest around town. Pierini uttered the title idea of, “Huskie Huddle” for branding our venture and we were off and running faster than OPRF quarterback Lloyd Yates on the read-option.
Everybody enthusiastically pitched in as ideas were exchanged, flyers were produced, analytics were discussed, content was created and photos were taken. Sparked by the Huskies’ vast potential, our relatively low-key office vibe suddenly morphed into an old school news room. All that I was lacking was a typewriter, cigar, fedora with a press label, and J. Jonah Jameson screaming at me to produce preseason copy on deadline.
In summation, we got after it journalisticially with the same bravado OPRF defensive ends Jelani Onigbinde and Allen Stallings employ when dumping quarterbacks into the ground.
Once the season kicked off in spectacular fashion with the Huskies delivering a 49-34 beat down of highly regarded Lincoln-Way East in Frankfort, our plan felt validated. A good, exciting and flashy team equals good, exciting and flashy stories.
Q and A’s with players, feature stories, game photo galleries, faces in the crowd photo galleries, statistical breakdowns, a full roster and schedule postings soon inundated Huskie Huddle for fans to follow and enjoy. And who can forget Pierini’s magnum opus, “Lunch meat, love and football,” detailing how the Huskies’ pre-meal prepared by a handful of football players’ parents fueled the team to victory.
We didn’t strive to be your one-stop shop for OPRF football, just the best one.
Alas, with the Huskies’ recent 39-15 loss to Barrington in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs, Huskie Huddle, like the players and coaches, must also accept our fate- the unwelcomed end of a fun, memorable 2014 season.
As the disappointment subsides, however, I think the members of the OPRF football program are thankful for the season. I know I am.
Consequently, there are many people I would like to thank who made Huskie Huddle such a fun, worthwhile and truly unique experience. To Coach Hoerster and the entire OPRF coaching staff, thanks for all of your cooperation and access to the football program. Aside from your competence and dedication as coaches, I was blown away by your genuinely friendly nature. Every coach always had a “Hi Marty” at the ready when I was anywhere near the OPRF Stadium gridiron.
The players were also a joy to cover and interview. Regrettably, I didn’t have a chance to personally talk with each and every player. That said, young men I did get to know a bit like Yates, Antonio Cannon, Phil Berton, Adam Lemke-Bell, Riley State, Cole Fields, Kamal Bey, Ke’Juan Ratcliff, Marty McAndrews, Sam Francis, Jelani Onigbinde, Dallis Flowers, Jahmari Moore, Allen Stallings, Sebastian Medala, Patrick Skrine, Max Metzgar, Jack Kotte, Andrew Borgdorff and Airmando Flores all represented themselves and the Huskies well.
Thanks also to OPRF athletic director John Stelzer, assistant athletic director Courtney Sakellaris, public address announcer Michael Lefevre, statistician Jim Zaino (aka the real Jay Z) and the rest of the press box crew.
I also enjoyed hanging in the stands at home and on the road with Huskie fans. I’d occasionally strike up conversations at games with parents like Mr. Pochyly (Sam’s dad), Mr. Metzgar or Ke’Juan Ratcliff’s mom and dad. Or some parents would extend well wishes online through the Huddle like Christina Moore who appreciated our Q and A with her son, Jahmari.
And of course, what can I say about Jonna Borgdorff. Whether she was taking game photos, making sandwiches for the players, providing me with valuable information about the program, Jonna has a true passion and interest for the program, and more importantly, the kids on the team. I can see why the players gravitate towards JB because of her friendly, warm personality. She’s an integral albeit behind the scenes part of the program.
All of the OPRF supporters I interacted with were beyond nice. I was impressed by both OPRF fans’ school spirit and knowledge of the game.
Speaking of football IQ, thanks to all of our readers and especially the one who took the time to offer comments on Huskie Huddle. Whether comments were positive, negative or somewhere in between, about OPRF football or how we covered the Huskies, your feedback served as a valuable resource on several counts.
Lastly, I would like to thank our “in house” Wednesday Journal sports team of Pierini, along with edit designers Jacquinete Baldwin and Claire Innes, freelance photographers Paul Bergstrom, Jennifer Wolfe and freelance writers Matt Le Cren and Lauren Recchia who all contributed to Huskie Huddle. Great job, everybody!
Looking ahead to next year, OPRF football figures to be as exciting as ever. While the Huskies will lose a stellar senior class of players, plenty of talent returns on the sideline, on the field and in the stands in terms of high quality coaches, players and supporters, respectively.
It’s been an absolute pleasure and privilege for me to cover OPRF football this season via our exciting online endeavor, Huskie Huddle.
At the risk of excessive optimism or perhaps blinded naievete, I truly believe a state championship and deeper playoff runs are in the cards for the Huskies under the direction of Hoerster. In fact, I’ll go on record with the prediction that the burnt orange and navy blue will raise a Class 8A state title trophy within the next five years.
Up or down, thin or flush, win or lose though, here’s to hoping Huskie Huddle comes along for the ride.
P.S.- Dont’ forget to check out Huskie Huddle during the offseason. We will keep tabs on offseason news about the program, including player signings for college, offseason camps, summer workouts and other news.