I have had a longtime fondness for high school sports, I enjoyed my time as a student manager on the football and track & field teams at Mendel Catholic High School.
Student-athletes largely play for the love of the game. Most high school kids realize that their competitive playing days will likely end once they graduate. They also learn the meaning of teamwork and work ethic, which are characteristics that will carry over into adulthood.
My passion and enthusiasm for high school sports went to another level this past school year. I became a freelance sports reporter for the Wednesday Journal, covering Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick High Schools.
From the OPRF football team's dramatic comeback victory over Simeon in late August to OPRF softball's admirable bid for three consecutive state championships ending in early June, I witnessed plenty of excitement provided by our local student-athletes.
I watched OPRF wide receiver Trevon Brown and defensive lineman Izaiah Ruffin become stars in the making. I saw Fenwick wide receiver Michael O'Laughlin prove to all that he was worthy of a scholarship to West Virginia. I witnessed excellence on the volleyball court from Fenwick's Margaret Planek.
In the winter, I got to see a historic season from OPRF boys basketball as the Huskies went perfect for the first time in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
I was at Fenwick in January for the jersey number retirement ceremony of basketball legends in alumni Erin Lawless, Tricia Liston and Devereaux Peters.
And the Fenwick boys basketball team won the Chicago Catholic League for the third consecutive season.
I enjoyed learning first-hand what the OPRF wrestling team is all about. The Huskies' grapplers are a powerhouse team that fosters a family atmosphere.
In the closing weeks of the high school sports year, I covered Fenwick water polo and OPRF softball extensively. I have always admired these two programs. Now, I fully understand why they are both special programs and perennial contenders to win state every year.
As for my favorite play of the 2017-2018 school year, that's easy. It was Fenwick wide receiver Lucas Kolovitz's touchdown catch in a 31-28 win over De La Salle that gave the Friars a share of the CCL Green title. Kolovitz caught a short pass from quarterback Danny Cronin and then overpowered or evaded six defensive players on his relentless way into the end zone.
I'd also like to thank many people for their time, support and friendship this year.
Thank you Wednesday Journal sports editor Marty Farmer, OPRF athletic director John Stelzer, Fenwick athletic director Scott Thies, OPRF coaches John Hoerster, Matt Maloney, JP Coughlin, Fred Galluzzo and Mel Kolbusz, along with Fenwick coaches Gene Nudo, Kathleen O'Laughlin, Rick Malnati, Dave Power, Dave Hogan, Mike Marrese, and Kyle Perry.
Thanks to all the OPRF and Fenwick athletes as well, particularly Michael O'Laughlin, Planek, Fiona Girardot, Maeve Nelson, Jason Ivery and D.J. Steward for their time.
Lastly, my deepest gratitude belongs to friends and family, particularly the Lillig family. Nick and Marie and their sons, Conner and Nick Jr., have been incredibly supportive.
In closing, it's time to Friar up and it's a great day to be a Huskie!
Answer Book 2019
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