The 2019 football season kicks off tonight for the Fenwick and Oak Park and River Forest High School football teams. The Friars and Huskies take on tricky opponents in Week 1 action.

Here are my previews and predictions for both games.

Fenwick vs. Curie 

Friday, Aug. 30 at Triton College (7:30 p.m.)

The Friars are looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 3-6 record in 2018 and make a return to the playoffs. The last time Fenwick missed the playoffs – 2015 – the team reached the Class 7A semifinals the following year. While I’m not ready to predict a similar run this fall, I believe the Friars have what it takes to return to the postseason. 

The defense will need to lead the way in the season’s early going until a talented but young offense matures. The Friars return several veterans that are capable of providing such leadership, including LB/S Tom Dvorak (All-Catholic League in ’18), LBs Danny Farnan and Bryce Legan, S Greyson Cone and CBs Solomon Singleton and Marc Thomas.

On offense, OT Sean Carpenter (All-CCL) leads a young group that oozes with potential stars such as sophomore QB Kaden Cobb, junior RB Isaac Novak, sophomore RBs Danny Kent and Jacque Walls, sophomore FB Kevin Frazier and sophomore WR Eian Pugh. There will be expected growing pains early in the season, but this is a group that should get better gradually in 2019.

With such a young team, it’s imperative the Friars get off to a fast start. Opening the season against a pair of mid-level Chicago Public Schools (Curie, Dunbar) should help.

Curie comes to Triton after enduring a sudden change in leadership during the summer. In July, head coach Arthur Ray abruptly left for a job at Northwood University. Veteran CPS coach Peter Grazzini was brought in as a replacement. The Condors do have some frontline talent, including LT Kevo Wesley (Vanderbilt recruit), WR/DB Rakeem Hinton (also a star on the basketball team), QB Damarius Jones, WR Jaylen Brooks, LB Decari Randle, and SS DeAngelo Burns. St. Rita transfer TE/DE Tristan Wright could also make an impact for Curie this fall.

The Condors are a team that Fenwick should be beat. The Friars’ offense will likely struggle early in the game, but should get better down the stretch. Meanwhile, I think the defense bends but doesn’t completely break which will keepFenwick in the game. Look for Fenwick all-conference K/P Bryan Dowd to play a huge role in potentially changing the field. Eventually, the Friars will pull away for a hard-earned win and secure a promising start to the season.

Tate’s Take: Fenwick 31, Curie 14

OPRF vs. Waubonsie Valley

Friday, Aug. 30 at Waubonsie Valley  (7:30 p.m.)

Despite losing several key players from their 2018 West Suburban Silver tri-champion team, the Huskies are still highly regarded, ranked in the preseason Top 25 polls of the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC Sports Chicago. A primary reason for that is the return of a few talented playmakers on both sides of the ball, including junior QB Jaden McGill, senior RB Nazareth Bryant, junior DE Naahlyee Bryant and senior LB Daemyen Middlebrooks. They’ll be counted on to lead a talented albeit inexperienced team.

The Huskies travel to Aurora to face Waubonsie Valley, a team that has gotten the better of OPRF in a couple of significant games. In last year’s opener, the Warriors prevailed 24-17 using three quick-strike scoring plays to spoil what was otherwise a very good defensive effort by OPRF. In a 2012 IHSA Class 8A second-round playoff game at OPRF, Warriors’ RB Austin Guido carved up the Huskie defense for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 28-7 Waubonsie win. 

Waubonsie is led by senior RB Bryce Logan, who rushed for 1,148 yards and 11 TD in 2018. Regarded as a very mentally tough player, Logan played in the Warriors’ first-round 8A playoff upset win over Bolingbrook despite tearing his ACL last season. He’ll run behind a line led by three-year starter Charlie Millington. Linebacker Ryan Mutz (98 tackles in ’18), along with linemen Joey Gits and Demari Wilson (5.5 sacks), pace Waubonsie defensively,

The OPRF offense will need to carry the team early on in the season as the defense (especially on the line) gains experience. The good news for Huskies’ fans is that McGill and Nazareth Bryant are capable of taking over games at any point with their running. Plus, McGill improved his passing skills over the summer and has become a dual-threat QB. If Erik Skala and the other OPRF wide receivers can make plays on the perimeter, that will open things up for McGill and Bryant. This game will be close, but I think the Huskies will earn a big victory on the road.

Tate’s Take: OPRF 31, Waubonsie Valley 24

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