Huskies halted by Hinsdale Central

Five turnovers seal OPRF's fate against West Suburban Silver defending champs

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

The only types of turnovers that are good are those that can be found in a bakery, like apple and cherry. They're tasty and give stomachs a good feeling.

Otherwise, turnovers in sports are not a good thing, especially in football. Too many miscues can give a team a sick feeling which typically results in a loss. That turned out to be the case Friday for the Oak Park and River Forest High School football team as five turnovers sealed the Huskies' fate in a 21-13 loss to Hinsdale Central at Oak Park Stadium.

"When you turn the ball over and you make mental mistakes, you're going to have a hard time beating good football teams," OPRF coach John Hoerster said. "We did the same thing last game (a 21-17 OPRF win over Downers Grove South) and got away with it, but Hinsdale Central is a good football team that wasn't going to beat itself."

The game started with neither team doing much offensively as the defenses shined. Then with 4:07 left in the opening quarter, OPRF quarterback Brian May was intercepted by Hinsdale Central linebacker Vincent Zelisko at the Huskies' 46-yard line.

The Red Devils took advantage of the short field with a 9-play drive that was capped off with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Rush to wide receiver/tight end Matthew Bjornson (Indiana recruit). Quentin Wallace added the extra point to give Hinsdale Central a 7-0 lead with 2:05 left in the first quarter. 

The situation worsened for OPRF on its next drive when May threw his second pick, this one to Red Devils' defensive back Nicholas Biancalana. Gifted with great field position at the OPRF 26, Hinsdale Central needed just four plays to score another TD on a 5-yard keeper by Rush. Wallace's extra point made it 14-0 with 10:37 left in the first half. 

On the Huskies' next offensive series, Hoerster made a change at quarterback as highly touted sophomore Toby Kunkel made his varsity debut. The new signal caller didn't produce an immediate spark, however, as the Huskies went three-and-out.

The teams exchanged several defensive stops; in fact, OPRF did not record a first down until 2:08 left in the first half. On that same drive, Kunkel showed off arm strength with completions of 32 yards and 21 yards to Trevon Brown (6 receptions, 149 yards), the latter resulting in a touchdown with 35 seconds left before halftime. Henry Darrow added the PAT to cut the Huskies' deficit in half at 14-7.

The Huskies (2-1, 0-1 West Suburban Silver) started the second half with a long drive that lasted about six minutes but didn't produce any points. After another exchange of three-and-outs, Hinsdale Central running back Garrett Oakey (22 carries, 176 yards) broke free down the Red Devils' sideline for a 73-yard TD scamper. Wallace's kick made it 21-7 with 2:26 left in the third. Along with Oakey, fellow running back Luke Skokna rushed 22 times for 92 yards as the Red Devils controlled the clock with a strong ground game.

The Huskies immediately responded with Kunkel's second TD pass to Brown, a 73-yarder. After Darrow missed the extra point, the Huskies trailed 21-13 with 1:27 to go in the third.

OPRF produced another quick stop on defense to set up great field position at the Hinsdale Central 48 to start the fourth quarter. On the second play, OPRF running back Keith Robinson fumbled at the 30 and the Red Devils recovered. 

Undeterred, the Huskies' defense forced another three-and-out. OPRF moved the ball deep into Hinsdale Central territory, but Kunkel tossed an interception to Charlie Lyne at the Hinsdale Central 20 to end the scoring threat.

The Red Devils responded with a long march, but Wallace missed a 47-yard field goal with 2:38 left in the game. Consequently, OPRF had one last chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, but Kunkel was picked off by Biancalana with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter. The Red Devils regained possession and ran out the clock.

In spite of the turnovers, Hoerster took some positives from the loss.

"I think a lot of our guys played well," he said. "Our defense did a great job and our special teams played well. Offensively, we played well in spurts. We've got to avoid the turnovers and mental mistakes, especially when we're moving the ball."

Hoerster also praised the performance of Kunkel. "I was proud of Toby. He made some good plays. For a kid his age being thrown into a tough situation, I thought he played well."

Kunkel completed 7 of 16 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. May went 2-for-3 for 6 yards and two interceptions. Senior running back Terrance Roundy rushed 21 times for 78 yards.

Moving forward, ball security will be emphasized by the Huskies.

"Tonight was a 21-13 game and we turned it over five times," Hoerster said. "We gave Hinsdale Central two short fields. If we don't do that, then who knows what could've been. We can be a really good team, but we've got to shore up the mental errors."

Better health would also help the Huskies as there were several players that left the game with injuries, including starting offensive linemen Jack De Lisle and co-captain Phil Saleh.

"We were banged up tonight," Hoerster said. "We had a bunch of guys that don't get many practice reps play tonight. I thought they worked hard."

Most of the injuries didn't appear to be serious enough to warrant concern, but only time will tell.

The Huskies travel to Morton on Friday, Sept. 15 for a West Suburban Conference crossover. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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