Now that the 2017-2018 high school sports year is in the books, I’m really enjoying this summer. Nevertheless, I want to share with you a preview of some of the main storylines I believe will shape next year’s narrative regarding Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick sports.
Let’s start on the gridiron.
Fenwick football will have a chance to write a new chapter. While it’s true that the Friars lose a lot of talented players (notably All-State wide receiver Michael O’Laughlin) to graduation, there will be a pair of good juniors to build around.
Quarterback Danny Cronin, a Division I football prospect, has looked very good in workouts and camps during the offseason. Defensive lineman Jacob Kaminski, the Wednesday Journal’s co-Male Athlete of the Year with OPRF wrestler Jake Rundell, appears poised to become the team’s leader defensively.
There’s also a very promising incoming class of 50 freshmen which should help fortify the Friars’ future. Veteran coach Gene Nudo is adept at quickly reloading the program for success.
OPRF will look to bounce from an uncharacteristic 5-5 campaign last season under head coach John Hoerster. However, unlike last fall’s inexperienced group, the Huskies should vault back into conference contention. Senior wide receiver Trevon Brown and defensive lineman Izaiah Ruffin are strong leaders, explosive playmakers and college football prospects.
Early tests against Waubonsie Valley at home (Aug. 24) and at Hinsdale Central (Sept. 7) could serve as an indicator of how OPRF will fare in the fall.
On the basketball court, the Fenwick boys basketball team intends on remaining a contender in the Chicago Catholic League and Class 4A state playoffs. New head coach Staunton Peck, who replaces his mentor Rick Malnati, will need to develop the new-look Friars without star guards D.J. Steward and Damari Nixon. Both have transferred out of Fenwick.
The OPRF boys basketball team will enter next season with less concerns than the Friars. Senior guard Dashon Enoch headlines an experienced starting lineup with four returners. Chase Robinson, Anthony Roberts and Charlie Hoehne have plenty of talent and experience at the varsity level The Huskies, who went undefeated in conference play last season, will be clear favorites to win another league title.
Here are other questions that will be answered next school year:
- Can Tennessee-bound Natalie Ungaretti continue her dominance in the swimming pool for OPRF?
- Can OPRF wrestling win a state championship?
- Can Fenwick wrestling continue its improvement under second-year coach Peter Kowalczuk?
- Can Rundell (OPRF) and Kaminski (Fenwick) repeat as individual wrestling state champions?
- Can Fenwick girls basketball continue its gradual climb back to state title contention behind legendary coach Dave Power?
- Can OPRF girls basketball avoid the injury bug and put together a strong season?
- Can OPRF softball rebound from a loss in the sectional final to conference rival York and claim its third state title in four years?
- Can OPRF baseball establish stability at the head coach position?
- Can Fenwick water polo win a pair of state titles and re-establish the program as the best in the state?
- Can emerging programs at Fenwick like girls hockey and boys lacrosse maintain their high level of success?
These are just some of the storylines to monitor next season. Regardless of results though, I know it will be another exciting and memorable year of sports for the Huskies and Friars.