It’s one thing to lose a game. But when the loss occurs in the closing seconds — which is what happened to Oak Park and River Forest High School football team April 16 at Oak Park Stadium — it tends to sting more.

“That was a tough one,” said OPRF head coach John Hoerster after the Huskies dropped a heartbreaking 18-17 contest to visiting York. “We had some kids who stepped up and made some big plays for us, [but] it was a tough one [to lose].”

OPRF (3-2) started slowly and trailed 10-0 with three minutes to go in the first half. Hoerster felt the Huskies left some plays on the field early on, but also gave them credit for showing resiliency.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot and making mistakes,” he said. “[But] we figured it out and the kids did a nice job sticking with the plan.”

After York (3-2) kicked a 20-yard field goal to go up 10-0, OPRF got right back into the game on its next offensive play with an 80-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Jack Landis (8-of-19, 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) to Ryan McFadden. 

Then running back Demetrius Dortch (184 all-purpose yards) opened the second half with a 71-yard kickoff return that set up a game-tying 31-yard field goal by Talib Becktemba-Goss at the 9:20 mark of the third quarter.

The game evolved into a defensive struggle from that point, with both teams gaining multiple stops. Finally, late in the fourth quarter, OPRF marched 37 yards on 10 plays to gain the lead, with Landis capping the drive on a nine-yard touchdown run with 2:03 remaining. 

However, on the ensuing drive, the Dukes were able to convert a fourth-and-5 from the Huskies’ 45 on a five-yard pass from Max Assaad to Aaron Berman, who stretched out just far enough to gain the first down. Then two plays later, Assaad found Luke Malaga open for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 33.6 seconds left. York opted to go for the two conversion and succeeded as Assaad, who threw for 345 yards on the evening, and Malaga connected again to give the Dukes an 18-17 lead.

OPRF drove to the York 41-yard line in the final seconds, but Landis’ desperation pass was intercepted at the 10 by Malaga as time expired to seal the Huskies’ fate.

“You’ve got a few hours to feel sorry for yourself, and then you’ve got to get back to it,” Hoerster said. “You’ve got to put the past in the past, focus on the future, and appreciate the opportunity that you have moving forward.”

In their final home game, seniors Jake Birmingham and Naahlyee Bryant had outstanding games for OPRF. Birmingham finished with 9.5 tackles (8 solo) while Bryant notched 5 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Senior James Murphy (6.5 tackles, 5 solo) and sophomore Cameron Crape (interception) also contributed to the Huskies’ defensive efforts. 

OPRF finishes the season April 24 at Glenbard West.

Friars overwhelm Leo

Senior Night for the Fenwick High School football team was a success as the Friars blanked visiting Leo 43-0 on April 16 at Triton College.

In his second start filling in for Kaden Cobb, quarterback E.J. Hosty threw for two touchdowns — 16 yards to Eian Pugh and 25 yards to Max Reese. Nick Polston ran for two touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation (1 and 9 yards respectively), and Danny Kent and Jacque Walls each added touchdown runs.

On defense, Fenwick (2-2) recorded five sacks, including two by Conor Paris. Mirko Jaskic forced a fumble, Jordan McAdoo and Jack O’Malley each recovered fumbles, and Michael Erwin had an interception. 

The Friars end the season April 23, hosting St. Ignatius at Triton College.

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