The boys soccer teams from Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick high schools renewed their annual rivalry on the pitch at the Dominican Priory on Sept. 25 in a match that was an intense struggle with a large and vocal standing-room crowd.
OPRF sophomore Easton Bogard’s goal with four minutes to play in the first half was all the Huskies would need as they defeated the Friars 1-0 before a large standing-room crowd.
“I don’t remember how Josh [Dennis] got the ball, but he passed it across to the top of the box,” Bogard said. “I used my body to turn towards my left foot, and I just spun and shot.”
Bogard is the Huskies’ leading goal scorer, and OPRF coach Jason Fried says it’s because of the improvements he has made with his decision-making.
“His biggest progression is recognizing when to distribute [the ball]. We’re always telling him when he should distribute, or when he should go at them,” he said. “Easton is getting more effective with that, and it’s great to see.”
Moreover, Bogard feels he has matured and adapted to the speed of the high school level.
“I’ve gotten more confident and used to the atmosphere,” he said. “Overall, I’m getting a little quicker, too.”
Another key to the Huskies’ victory was their excellent team defense. OPRF didn’t allow Fenwick (6-5-2) much possession inside their offensive half. In fact, the Huskies kept the majority of the play in the Friars’ end of the field, and Fried cites his defense as the biggest reason for the team’s success this fall.
“We had another clean sheet. Our guys thrive on them,” he said. “We’ve challenged them to get clean sheets for three games in a row, and they’ve done two. So far, so good.”
Fenwick co-captain Jack Powers managed to break away for a couple of scoring opportunities, but both times he was stopped by OPRF goalkeeper Clark Turk.
“The difference between them and us is that they put away their opportunity and we didn’t,” said Powers. “I had a couple of chances, [but] I couldn’t do it today.”
With the field being tilted against him, Fenwick goalkeeper Greg Price kept his team in the match with several clutch saves, drawing praise from coach Craig Blazer.
“Greg was the man of the match. He was big-time,” Blazer said. “He’s been getting better every half and we’ve acknowledged it. He’s worked really hard.”
Both Blazer and Fried also remarked on the strong fan turnout for a game featuring the crosstown rivals.
“When I first started coaching at Fenwick, I asked the guys what the biggest rivalry was, and they said OPRF,” said Fenwick coach Craig Blazer. “To play on this field and have tremendous support, it’s really what you want high school athletics to be, and the guys handled themselves well. It’s a testament to both programs.”
“It was fun. [The fans] were loud and positive on both sides,” added Fried, whose team improved to 9-2. “When we got that goal, we celebrated with the Dog Pound [OPRF student section]. It was a cool experience.”