The first girls flag football season ever at Oak Park and River Forest High School ended Friday evening with the Huskies falling just short of advancing to the conference championship game after losing a semifinal game 14-8 to Proviso East in a game played on the Lake Street Field before a crowd of less than 100 people.
OPRF finished the season with a 4-3 record, two narrow losses to Proviso East and one loss to eventual champion Willowbrook which walloped Proviso East 32-0 later Friday evening to win the West Suburban Conference title.
Proviso East scored first in the semifinal taking a 6-0 lead before the Huskies struck back. OPRF quarterback Cydney MacDonald rolled left and hit speedy receiver Saniya Shotwell, a standout sprinter in track, with a pass and Shotwell, who is known as Speed to her teammates and coaches, outraced all the Pirates to the end zone.
The Huskies scored a two-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead.
But Proviso East scored what proved to be the game winning touchdown on a long pass from Kaylin Garrett to Peace Thompson with 8:34 left in the first half.
Neither team could score in the second half. The Huskies were driving on their final possession but Tyler Brock was stopped about 20 yards short of the goal line after catching a MacDonald pass as time ran out.
“I am kind of sad but it was just a learning lesson just to go a little bit harder for next year,” said Shotwell, a senior, after the game.
Shotwell played both ways for much of the game against Proviso East matching up on defense against Proviso East star Maritza Saenz.
“Once I got to playing both sides of the ball for the rest of the game, she didn’t really touch nothing for the rest of the game unless it was a handoff and she didn’t get far,” Shotwell said.
Before this fall, Shotwell, who plays basketball as well as running track, had never played football except for tossing around a football with her three older brothers. But she enjoyed the game and would like to continue playing in college if she can. Some NAIA schools have girls flag football program and even offer scholarships.
“I think it’s really different, but I really love it,” Shotwell said. “It was really fun,” Shotwell said. “It was a lot of great moments and it was like a lot of great life lesson moments, be a team, be a leader and really communicate with the other kids.
After the game OPRF head coach Tank Corner was already thinking about next year.
“We gonna get better and better,” Corner said. “This is our first time doing it.” We’re coming to come back next year strong.”