OPRF quarterback Jack Gooch (2) ran for one touchdown and threw for two more as the Huskies trampled crosstown rival Fenwick 35-7 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on Aug. 27 to open the 2022 football season. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Oak Park and River Forest High School head football coach John Hoerster was sporting an ice pack on his knee after the Crosstown Classic game with Fenwick High School on Aug. 27 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

It wasn’t because he got hit on a play. It was from celebrating big plays by jumping up and down. The pain was worth it as the Huskies rolled past the Friars 35-7 in the first gridiron meeting between the teams since 1989.

“We had so many guys going both ways,” Hoerster said. “They were ironmen that did some amazing things and never complained. Everyone cherished their roles, and I’m really proud of them.”

Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia, on the other hand, lamented the errors his team made.

“We didn’t play a good brand of football today,” he said. “We had too many missed [defensive] alignments and mental mistakes. A lot of it goes to the veteran presence [OPRF] had, and we’ve got a lot of guys still learning how to play varsity football.”

After stopping Fenwick (0-1) on downs at its 33-yard line, OPRF quarterback Jack Gooch put The Huskies (1-0) in business by connecting with Ryan Martin on a 44-yard pass to the Fenwick 23. Then on fourth-and-16 from the Friars’ 29, Gooch hit Martin over the middle for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead at the 6:48 mark of the opening quarter.

“Ryan and I have been playing ball together since eighth grade,” said Gooch, who completed 17-of-28 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. “We’re friends on and off the field, and it was special today.”

The OPRF defense smothered Fenwick, intercepting Fenwick quarterback E.J. Hosty (12-of-23, 123 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) on three consecutive possessions. Junior Khalil Nichols had two of them and three for the day.

“Khalil is our best scout-team player against our first-team offense,” Hoerster said. “He makes Jack, Ryan and those guys better. Khalil loves to play football and is so smart.”

Nichols’ second interception sparked a nine-play, 67-yard scoring drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by OPRF’s Eric Evans.

Then on Fenwick’s ensuing drive, Cameron Crape intercepted Hosty and returned the ball to the Friars’ 25. The Huskies cashed in immediately when Gooch found Martin (9 receptions, 135 yards) for another touchdown and a 21-0 lead that sent the OPRF Dog Pound student section into a frenzy.

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“Our students, parents, and fans were great,” Gooch said. “[Fenwick] had more people than us, but we were loud. It was fun.”

The OPRF defense — which held Fenwick to 28 rushing yards — got another stop, then Gooch directed another nine-play scoring march, this one covering 74 yards. Gooch finished things himself by running in from five yards out to give the Huskies a commanding 28-0 advantage.

“Our defensive staff [coordinator Max Sakellaris and assistants Ty Garland and Tim Hasso] created a new defense this year from scratch,” Hoerster said. “These guys are students of the game. They learned it, asked questions. Our defense bought into it and was awesome today.”

The Friars got on the board with 57 seconds left in the first half when Hosty found Dennis Moore (4 receptions, 136 yards) open down the right sideline for a 58-yard score. OPRF led 28-7 at halftime.

Late in the third quarter from the Fenwick 24, Evans (11 carries, 41 yards) burst through the right side and took it to the house for his second touchdown to conclude the game’s scoring.

In the final minutes, Fenwick quarterback Marek Hill (5-of-7, 82 yards passing) found Moore open and connected for an apparent 58-yard touchdown. However, the officials said Moore fumbled before crossing the goal line and since the ball went out of bounds through the end zone, the play was ruled a touchback and one of Fenwick’s six turnovers for the game.

“It was a full team loss, but as bad as we were today, what we’re really excited about is being able to improve on this,” Battaglia said.

There were a few bright spots for the Friars. Offensively, junior Donnell French had 11 carries for 33 yards, and junior Jalen Williams led Fenwick with five receptions (23 yards). Defensively, junior Luke D’Alise and sophomore Nate Marshall each recorded sacks.

“I don’t think we can get any more down than this week, and there’s no doubt in my mind we will be better,” Battaglia said.

Both OPRF and Fenwick are back in action Sept. 2. The Huskies visit Hinsdale South in a West Suburban Conference crossover, while the Friars welcome Thornwood to Triton College in River Grove. Kickoff for both games is 7:30 p.m.

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