Fenwick's Marek Hill (12) leads his team onto the field before their game against Oak Park River Forest Saturday, August 26, 2023 in River Grove, IL. (Steve Johnston / Wednesday Journal)

For four Fenwick High School football players who reside in Oak Park — OL/DL David Blake, RB/LB Luke D’Alise, QB Marek Hill, and WR/DB Elijah Romeus — last year’s 35-7 defeat at the hands of crosstown rival Oak Park and River Forest High School didn’t sit too well.

On Aug. 26 in front of a standing-room crowd at Triton College in River Grove, they got their revenge as the Friars pulled away in the second half to defeat the Huskies 34-13.

“It’s awesome,” said Hill, who completed 21-of-35 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. “The four of us talked all week about how important this game was, and we just went out there as a team, executed and got the result we wanted.”

Fenwick’s quarterback Marek Hill (12) passes the ball against Oak Park River Forest Saturday, August 26, 2023 in River Grove, IL. (Steve Johnston / Wednesday Journal)

Fenwick (1-0) got a huge gift to begin the game as OPRF (0-1) failed to cover the opening kickoff and Romeus pounced on the loose ball at the Huskies’ 10-yard line. The Friars cashed in when D’Alise scored on fourth and goal from a yard out. But Nate Marshall was stopped on the two-point conversion.

“It’s hard when you start off with a big mistake,” said OPRF coach John Hoerster. “We basically spotted them seven points and against a team like Fenwick, it’s going to make life really hard for you.”

However, the Huskies immediately responded by marching 80 yards over seven plays to take the lead. Sam Gray’s 41-yard burst helped set up a 14-yard touchdown run by OPRF sophomore quarterback Johnny Nelson (14-of-26, 118 yards passing; 37 yards rushing), making his varsity debut.

“Johnny had a great camp,” said Hoerster of Nelson winning the starting job over junior Owen Watson. “He brings a lot with his athleticism, size, and strength, and his passing game has come along. He did a great job.”

Oak Park River Forest’s quarterback Johnny Nelson (7) carries the ball and tries to avoid Fenwick’s Colin Murray (90) Saturday, August 26, 2023 in River Grove, IL. (Steve Johnston / Wednesday Journal)

Late in the first quarter, Fenwick used a 12-play, 67-yard drive that carried over into the second to regain the lead. D’Alise (22 carries, 94 yards) scored once again, this time going in from three yards out, and Hill found Marshall for the two-point conversion to give the Friars a 14-7 advantage with 10:15 left in the half.

OPRF pulled back within one as Watson, replacing an injured Nelson, hit Khalil Nichols out of the backfield for a 9-yard touchdown. But Tommy Thies blocked Eric Guerrier’s point after to maintain Fenwick’s lead, which stood at 14-13 at intermission.

After stopping Fenwick on downs inside Friars’ territory early in the third quarter, OPRF had a golden opportunity to take control. But the Huskies’ offense couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.

Then Fenwick defensive lineman Aiden Burns made a momentum-changing play on OPRF’s next possession, sacking and stripping Watson of the ball, which was recovered by Timmy Mulcahy at the OPRF 27. 

Five plays later, Ninos Ameer found the house from 9 yards out to raise the Friars’ lead to 21-13 at the 4:34 mark of the third quarter.

Oak Park River Forest’s Kahrmelo Kelley Weaver (12) picks up yards after his catch against Fenwick’s Erik Ferjak (16) Saturday, August 26, 2023 in River Grove, IL. (Steve Johnston / Wednesday Journal)

On Fenwick’s next possession, OPRF junior Matt Winkelhake intercepted Hill in the end zone. It gave the Huskies a brief spark as Nelson returned and completed three consecutive passes to Mykah Riley.

OPRF had a 4th and 3 from the Fenwick 23 early in the fourth quarter, but Nichols was stopped short, resulting in a turnover on downs.

“I like how our kids fought,” Hoerster said of the Huskies, who have just five returning regulars from last season. “They’re learning and growing. They’re a great group, and I think we’re going to be alright. You want to keep yourself together and stay positive, but at the end of the day, we made too many mistakes.”

The Friars marched 78 yards in nine plays to create breathing room as Hill found T.J. Smith for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Nichols blocked Noah Sur’s point after, but Fenwick had a 27-13 lead with 8:50 to play.

Then after stopping OPRF twice more on downs, D’Alise’s 26-yard jaunt set up his third touchdown run, from one yard out, which sealed things with 1:36 left.

“Luke had an absolute monster game,” Hill said. “He was the player of the game in my opinion. He just makes plays.”

Join the discussion on social media!