As the 2016-2017 high school year draws to a close, I’d like to look back at what has been a remarkable year for both Oak Park-River Forest and Fenwick. I have lived in Oak Park since 2001 and this year goes down as the most exciting I’ve witnessed.
Let’s start with football. Both Fenwick and OPRF had stellar seasons. Quarterbacks Jacob Keller (Fenwick) and Jeremy Hunt (OPRF), running backs Conner Lillig (Fenwick) and Terrance Roundy (OPRF), wide receivers Mike O’Laughlin (Fenwick) and Jared Scott (OPRF) served as primary playmakers for a pair of electric offenses.
Fenwick defensive end Ellis Taylor and OPRF cornerback Keyon Blankenbaker starred defensively.
The Friars won their conference and the Huskies narrowly missed winning theirs.
Fenwick went on an impressive run in Class 7A (and in my opinion was the true state runner-up). Although the Friars technically finished 11-2, I’m putting them at 12-1 for the season.
I’m giving Fenwick a win at the “Travesty at Triton,” not Plainfield North as the record book indicates). It’s only because of the short-sightedness of the IHSA that Fenwick wasn’t in Champaign battling East St. Louis in the 7A finals.
The IHSA admitted that Fenwick won the game, yet because of an archaic by-law overturning the outcome couldn’t be done. Give me a break!
And this decision came from an organization whose motto is supposedly, “Do What’s Right.” Well, the IHSA surely didn’t do right by the Friars.
The winter sports season offered similar success for the Fenwick and OPRF boys basketball teams.
Led by Cam Gross and Scott, the Huskies defeated Class 4A defending state champion Curie in a sectional semifinal. While the victory over the Condors was coach Matt Maloney’s greatest win, OPRF ran into a buzz saw in eventual state champion Whitney Young in the sectional final.
Nevertheless, the Huskies (24-8) produced a historic hoops season.
Fenwick also made history, with a program-best 30 wins in a single season and Class 3A state championship game appearance against Morgan Park.
Led by senior Jamal Nixon (winningest player in program history), precocious freshman DJ Steward and the unflappable Keller, the football squad picked up right where the football left off.
Coach Rick Malnati’s crew improved as the season progressed, which enabled Fenwick to earn its first state trophy in boys basketball. In the 3A title game, the Friars had a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter; however preseason favorite Morgan Park showed its mettle and rallied to force overtime.
After Keller and Nixon fouled out in regulation, the Mustangs held off the Friars in overtime to win the championship.
In wrestling, the Huskies’ Jason Renteria went undefeated en route to claiming a second straight individual championship.
Like Steward in hoops, another freshman sensation stole the show on the wrestling mat. Jacob Kaminski became the first Fenwick wrestler to reach the state finals.
The Fenwick boys and girls water polo teams excelled yet again. The Friars placed third in the girls competition and fourth in boys.
With only a handful of teams still playing high school sports this spring, the OPRF softball appears poised to repeat as state champions. Senior pitcher Chardonnay Harris, an Auburn commit, anchors a very good pitching staff. She’s also a big bat in the middle of a potent lineup that also includes Northwestern-bound Maeve Nelson, Fiona Girardot, Mariah Scott, Sydney Babbington and Allison Smart.
Congratulations to Fenwick baseball coach Dave Hogan who won his 800th game this spring.