Oak Park and River Forest defensive back Khalil Nichols (33) prepares to tackle Glenbard West running back Julius Ellens in a West Suburban Silver football game Sept. 10. (Carol Dunning/Contributor)

The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team came into its game Sept. 10 at Glenbard West confident, having outscored its first two opponents by a combined 77-14 margin.

The Huskies started strong against the Hilltoppers, taking a pair of first-half leads. But Glenbard West gradually wore down OPRF and pulled away for a 35-14 West Suburban Conference Silver Division victory.

“Glenbard West is a really good program,” said OPRF coach John Hoerster. “At the end of the day, they’ve got tremendous depth and are well-coached and tenacious. We fought and competed, but we just ran out of gas.”

The Huskies (2-1, 0-1 in WSC Silver) began the game well. On a fourth-and-10 from the Glenbard West 22-yard line, quarterback Jack Gooch (19-of-27 passing, 187 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) found Ryan Martin (7 receptions, 83 yards) in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. However, in an ominous sign of what was to come on special teams, the snap on the extra point sailed over the holder to leave the score at 6-0 at the 7:35 mark of the opening quarter.

In the final minute of the quarter, OPRF had another bad snap, this time on a punt attempt. The ball bounced into the end zone where it was recovered by Glenbard West’s Filip Maciorowski for a touchdown and a 7-6 Hilltopper lead.

“Against a team like this, you can’t make mistakes,” Hoerster said. “If you give them freebies, it’s really hard to recover from.”

The Huskies took a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter with a 27-yard pass from Gooch to Eric Evans, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Cameron Crape. However, Glenbard West (3-0, 1-0) countered with a four-yard touchdown run by Julius Ellens to even things at 14-14 heading into halftime.

The Hilltoppers then took the lead for good in quick fashion to begin the second half as Ellens dashed down the right side for a 47-yard score to cap a three-play, 61-yard drive.

OPRF got to the Glenbard West 32 on the ensuing drive, but a fourth-down pass from Gooch fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. The Hilltoppers then embarked on a lengthy march that covered 68 yards and ended with another Ellens’ touchdown from a yard out on the third play of the fourth quarter, making the score 28-14.

Glenbard West then successfully executed an onside kick, recovering at the OPRF 42. A few plays later, Ellens dashed 29 yards for his fourth touchdown of the day to conclude the scoring. The junior rushed for 206 yards (142 in the second half) on 24 carries.

The Huskies have several players that play both offense and defense, and on a warm afternoon, Hoerster felt that became a factor as the game progressed.

“It was a perfect storm; our kids are wiped,” he said. “They clawed and did their best, but Glenbard separated the gap in the second half.”

OPRF senior John Shepherd grabbed four receptions for 36 yards and Jacob Bickhem had two catches for 31 yards. Defensively, Sam Gray and Kole Sneed each had sacks.

After spending their first three games on the road, the Huskies will have their home opener against Lyons Township on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Oak Park Stadium.

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