The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team had first-half leads in two previous West Suburban Conference Silver losses.
The Huskies’ latest WSC Silver defeat Sept. 23 was the most frustrating – 22-19 at Hinsdale Central on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 22.4 seconds left after leading 19-7 at halftime.
“There’s not much I can take out of that in a positive light,” OPRF coach John Hoerster said. “Hats off to [Hinsdale Central].
“They wanted to win this game more than our guys. They came out in the second half down two scores. We didn’t answer on offense and our defense didn’t get a stop. We’ve got some soul searching to do and hopefully our kids take this as a lesson and a challenge and bounce back.”
In the fourth quarter, the Huskies (2-3, 0-3) turned back Hinsdale Central (3-2, 1-1) twice inside the 10 before the winning score.
Cole Roberson and Khalil Nichols had key interceptions, Jeremiah Williams had a sack and Jacob Bickhem, Nichols and Jamari Williams had pass breakups.
Eric Evans rushed 25 times for 153 yards, with 104 yards and two 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half. Jack Gooch was 12-for-23 passing for 106 yards with a 24-yard touchdown pass to John Shepard. The Huskies played without the injured Ryan Martin, who has eight touchdown receptions.
OPRF, however, had just a three-and-out on offense in the third quarter and 88 second-half yards and five first downs. Another three-and-out gave Hinsdale Central the ball at its 34 with 3:51 to play for the winning drive.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish a game,” Hoerster said. “But that’s not just on us. Hinsdale did a great job.”
The Red Devils scored on their opening possession of the second half to close to 19-14. The Huskies then stopped them one yard short on a fourth-and-2 quarterback keeper from the 10. After the Red Devils’ intercepted at the 17, Nichols intercepted three plays later at the 6.
In the second quarter, Evans pressured and Roberson intercepted a deflected pass near midfield and returned the ball to the Red Devils’ 10. Evans scored on fourth-and-goal and the Huskies led 12-7.
OPRF regained possession at the Red Devils’ 39 just 43.1 seconds before halftime. The Huskies followed a pass interference penalty with the touchdown pass to Shepard, who broke a tackle at the 5 to score 26.6 seconds before halftime. Nolan Vitale converted the extra point after missed one- and two-point attempts.
On the Huskies’ first touchdown drive of 89 yards, Evans had 24, 14 and 17-yard gains.
“He’s a very good football player,” Hoerster said. “They did a great job defending the pass. He stepped up and did a great job.”