For most of the regular season, the Oak Park and River Forest defense excelled as the Huskies’ most productive unit. Props and accolades deservedly came their way. Keep in mind the OPRF defense essentially held fellow conference champs Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West, collectively, to seven points.
While the defense certainly played well in a 34-16 win over visiting New Trier on Friday, the offense stole the show as quarterback Jaden McGill fueled a balanced attack in the Huskies’ Class 8A playoff opener.
The sophomore accounted for four touchdowns and amassed over 235 yards of total offense as OPRF built a 14-0 lead in the first half and never looked back on the way to victory.
Ironically, one of the Huskies’ best defensive players opened the scoring. Moonlighting as a situational running back in the Huskies’ “jumbo” package, OPRF senior linebacker Cedric Cheatham scored on a 9-yard run with 3.3 seconds left in the first quarter.
At the 10:02 mark of the second quarter, McGill added a brilliant 42-yard run into the end zone to further help the Huskies’ cause. In a shotgun formation, McGill took the snap, faked a handoff and then evaded several New Trier defenders behind the line of scrimmage before breaking free down the left sideline for a touchdown.
Henry Darrow’s extra point extended the OPRF lead to 14-0 with 10:03 left until halftime.
After the Trevians drew closer at 20-10 via Donovan Perkins’ 1-yard TD plunge and Graham Dable’s 35-yard field goal, McGill struck again on a 1-yard TD run up the middle to give OPRF a 26-10 lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Darrow added the PAT to make the score 27-10.
With 8:41 remaining in the game, the Huskies put the game out of reach on McGill’s beautifully lofted 14-yard pass to senior wide receiver Trevon Brown, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone.
McGill completed 6 of 7 passes for 98 yards and rushed 20 times for 138 yards, while Craig Shelton had three receptions for 74 yards. Running back Nazareth Bryant contributed 87 yards on 12 carries.
The Huskies amassed 365 yards of total offense on 56 plays (6.5 yards per play), had 20 first downs and converted 7 of 13 first downs (53.8 percent) in a solid performance. The only negative may have been nine penalties for 110 yards.
Defensively, Jake Adams led the Huskies with a team-high six tackles and a sack. Daemyen Middlebrooks had 4.5 tackles, while Ethan Reinhardt, Ashford Hollis and Cheatham tallied four tackles apiece. Aidan Shea, Danny Francis, Joe Phelan, Izaiah Ruffin, Machi Young and Brown all recorded multiple tackles as well.
Quarterback Carson Ochsenhirt (22-for-37, 199 yards) plus wide receivers Michael Endre and Perkins paced the Trevians offensively. Perkins (6 catches, 23 yards) scored a pair of touchdowns, while Endre caught 11 passes for 137 yards. The Trevians’ top player, Northwestern-bound Duke Olges, finished with four tackles, including one for loss. New Trier finishes the season 7-3
As for the Huskies, they are peaking at the perfect time of the season. After a 1-2 start, which included losses to playoff teams Waubonsie Valley and Hinsdale Central, OPRF has not dropped a game.
Led by Cheatham and defensive linemen Ruffin and Hollis, the Huskies entered their postseason opener against New Trier allowing 11.6 points per game. They held a New Trier offense that averaged about 30 points per game in relative check.
The OPRF offense has improved over the course of the season with solid play from its offensive line, the development of McGill, plus contributions from running backs Bryant and Keith Robinson and wideouts Shelton and Brown.
Over the past three weeks, OPRF has defeated Glenbard West in a huge road win, routed Lyons Township to earn a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title and handily beat well-regarded New Trier.
OPRF (8-2), which has won seven games in a row, takes on top-seeded Brother Rice in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs. The Crusaders crushed Zion-Benton 49-0 in Chicago Saturday night.
Brother Rice (10-0) won the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division championship and outscored its opponents 304-52 during the regular season. The Crusaders are battle tested, with notable victories against several state title contenders like Marist, Loyola and Montini. Brother Rice also beat Fenwick 35-3 in a CCL crossover game.