The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team entered Friday night’s season opener at Waubonsie Valley hoping to build off last season’s success. The Huskies went 8-3, earned a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division with Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central, and defeated New Trier 34-16 in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs in 2018.
Unfortunately, Waubonsie Valley quarterback Ethan Nelson halted any of OPRF’s possible carryover momentum, by tossing three touchdown passes as the Warriors defeated the Huskies 23-14 on Aug. 30 in Aurora.
The Warriors built a 17-0 lead early in the third quarter and never looked back en route to their second straight season-opening victory over the Huskies.
OPRF (0-1) showed signs of life, however, by scoring a pair of touchdowns to whittle the deficit to 17-14 after three quarters.
The Huskies’ Kelby Gray ran off left tackle for a 73-yard touchdown run to make the score 17-6 with 8:23 left in the third quarter. The extra point attempt was no good.
About five minutes later, OPRF junior quarterback Jaden McGill scored on a remarkable 38-yard run into the end zone. Apparently bottled up for a modest gain, McGill powered his way through multiple tacklers to break free for the Huskies’ second touchdown at 3:03 mark of the third quarter. McGill converted the two-point conversion on a pass to Jemari Smith-Payton pull within 17-14.
Nelson tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass tight end Demari Wilson (6 catches, 77 yards), extending the Warriors’ advantage to 23-14 with 9:45 left in the fourth quarter.
OPRF attempted a late comeback, however, Lee picked off a McGill pass to seal the victory for Waubonsie Valley.
Led by Nazareth Bryant (14 carries, 96 yards) and Gray (2 carries, 76 yards), the Huskies ran the ball well with 188 yards total rushing. However, McGill struggled through the air, completing just one of nine passes for seven yards to go with two interceptions.
By comparison, Nelson completed 12 of 25 passes for 202 yards with the aforementioned three TDs and no picks. Nelson’s TD passes went to Elijah Lee (61 yards), Sean Clinton (42 yards) and Wilson (22 yards). Waubonsie Valley kicker Alex Brots chipped in a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter, which made the score 10-0 heading into halftime. Sophomore running back Antonio Torres rushed for 78 yards on 23 carries for the victors.
Waubonsie Valley, which outgained OPRF 263-195 in total yards, also won the time of possession battle (30:53-17:07) and had more offensive plays (60-36).
Defensively, Daemyen Middlebrooks led OPRF in tackles with 11 and teammate Jake Birmingham finished with 8.5 tackles.
OPRF will host Willowbrook on Friday, Sept. 6. The West Suburban Conference crossover starts at 7:30 p.m.
-Melvin Tate contributed to this story.