The Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick High School boys soccer teams renewed their rivalry during Saturday’s annual crosstown clash. The matchup always produces highly competitive soccer and attracts a huge turnout of fans for both teams.

Additionally, proceeds from the game are given to a charitable cause. This year’s recipient, Housing Forward, is a west suburban-based social service agency. 

On the field, Fenwick looked settled on the ball during various portions of the match but the host Huskies earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory.

“Our players gave a strong 80-minute performance,” OPRF coach Jason Fried said. “We need to adapt more in the midst of the game and get better at creating opportunities in the final third.”

The Huskies controlled the early action, courtesy of a barrage from senior Sam Menzies and the rest of the players on the OPRF attack. However, the Friars’ Mike Cerceo, Alex Sanchez and the Friars’ defense held their own, a common theme throughout the match.

OPRF’s best scoring opportunity occurred when junior forward Brody Bliss broke through and sent a low, driving cross through the box but couldn’t connect with a teammate.

Fenwick played well in the final portion of the half. At the 30th minute, the Friars had a great link up down the field orchestrated by Mariano Mollo, Tommy Reardon and Owen Mackinnon. Fenwick held possession in the Huskies’ third of the field for a bit, threatening on a few occasions and ultimately winning a free kick from 25 yards out.

The Friars didn’t convert that chance, however, and OPRF went on a counter attack that culminated with senior midfielder Andrew Barkidjija’s goal. He scored off a header that hit the post and fell to his feet for a bottom corner of the net score and 1-0 Huskies’ lead.

While the Huskies held the lion’s share of possession in the first half, the Fenwick defense displayed heart and skill at impeding several attacks and setting up short runs.

Although both teams took multiple water breaks due to excessive heat, players looked exhausted at the beginning of the second half.

In the 45th minute, Bliss broke down the left side of the field with some silky moves and kicked the ball past the outstretched hands of Fenwick goalie Kevin Johnson, extending the OPRF advantage to 2-0.

The remainder of the second half consisted of OPRF knocking the ball around the midfield. Towards the end of the match, the field opened up and Fenwick made some final attempts on goal. Mollofired away from outside the box for the Friars’ lone shot on goal with 10 minutes to go, but OPRF’s 6-foot-4 senior goalkeeper Kel Felton held on to secure the Huskies’ 2-0 victory and neighborhood bragging rights for 2017.

Fenwick coach Rob Watson wasn’t discouraged after the loss, citing how well the Friars defended despite missing three players. He also lauded senior Mike Cerceo for volunteering to move from striker to sweeper to lead the Fenwick defense.

 “We put this game in the middle of our season right before moving to the tougher CCL opponents to better prepare us for what’s ahead,” Watson said.

The Friars (8-6, 4-0 Chicago Catholic League) had won four of five matches heading into their annual showdown with OPRF.

OPRF (11-2, 3-0 West Suburban Silver) is even hotter than Fenwick. The Huskies have won four in a row and nine of 10 matches, highlighted by conference victories against Lyons Township and Downers Grove North last week.

 “The team has been building on consistent play all season,” Fried said. “In the beginning of the season, we had a few games were we played at a high level and then would fall off for other games. As we have hit the middle part of the season we are coming closer and closer to putting together a full 80-minute game. 

“I am really pleased how the team has come together and really has strived for creating high percentage opportunities around the net. They have done a good job possessing the ball with a purpose.”  

Fenwick hosts St. Joseph at the Priory on Friday, Sept. 29 at 4:30 p.m. OPRF heads to Chicago to take on St. Ignatius Saturday, Sept. 30 at noon.

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