Like other high school football players in Illinois, Oak Park and River Forest High School senior wide receiver Eric Locke Jr. is happy to be back playing in front of capacity crowds again.
“It’s great. It’s nice to have our friends watch us play again,” said Locke, who is in his third season as a varsity starter.
Also known as E.J., Locke had a solid effort in the Huskies’ 60-20 loss to Glenbard West on Sept. 10 in the Huskies’ West Suburban Conference Silver Division opener, grabbing seven receptions for 81 yards.
While there weren’t many positives from the outcome, OPRF head coach John Hoerster felt Locke was one of them.
“Eric made a lot of great plays tonight,” he said. “He really was a leader on the field.”
The Huskies (1-2, 0-1) were outscored by the Hilltoppers (3-0, 1-0) 28-0 in the first quarter, setting the tone for a difficult evening. Nevertheless, OPRF kept battling and senior running back Kelby Gray (20 carries, 72 yards) had a pair of short scoring runs in the second quarter, and junior quarterback Jack Gooch (19-for-26, 184 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to sophomore Sam Gray.
However, the Huskies weren’t able to overcome the slow start and the final quarter was largely played with a running clock. The result was especially disappointing given that OPRF was coming off an impressive performance in a 49-8 victory over visiting Hinsdale South the week before.
“It’s been a rocky start,” said the 6-foot-4 Locke, who also plays basketball. “This game didn’t work out like we wanted it to, so we have to move on to the next week.”
Glenbard West has long been one of Chicagoland’s most successful high school football programs due to its physical style and crisp execution on both sides of the ball. While Hoerster made sure to credit the Hilltoppers, he also knew OPRF needed to play almost perfectly to give itself a chance.
“They’re very good, and in order to compete you have to play mistake-free football and do everything right. You have to make them earn everything and we didn’t do that on either side of the ball,” Hoerster said.
There are still six games remaining in the regular season for the Huskies, and Hoerster is hopeful that the team can turn things around.
“You’ve got to make a decision as a player on how you want to bounce back,” he said. “You can either fold up your tent and go home or you can dust the dirt off and keep playing.”
Locke, who is one of the team’s captains and has an offer from Roosevelt University and has interest from a few NCAA Division I schools, feels the same way.
“We need to practice harder,” he said. “We need to cut out some of the playing around that happens and focus on both the physical and mental things that can make us successful. We definitely got a wake-up call and need to have a different mentality next week.”
After having their first three games at Oak Park Stadium, the Huskies hit the road as they’ll meet Lyons Township High School at Bennett Field in Western Springs on Sept. 17 a 7 p.m.
Providence trips up Fenwick
Having notched a pair of impressive home wins to start the season, Fenwick High School traveled to New Lenox for a meeting with Providence Catholic, hoping to keep momentum going.
Unfortunately, the Friars lost to the host Celtics 21-20, dropping their record to 2-1.
Fenwick’s Luke D’Alise had a 1-yard touchdown run while quarterback Kaden Cobb threw for two scores. After Cobb’s second touchdown pass, a 12 yarder to Eian Pugh about midway through the fourth quarter, kicker Iain Ramage missed an extra point that would’ve tied the game at 21.
Fenwick was able to get the ball twice more and drove into Providence territory each time. But on the first possession, Cobb was intercepted at the Celtics’ 18 when a defender managed to take the ball away from Pugh as the two hit the ground.
Then on the Friars’ final drive, Ramage came up short and wide left on a 56-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds.
Fenwick will travel to De La Salle for a Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference White Division contest Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.