October 19th, 2018 12:05 PM
OPRF senior defensive lineman Izaiah Ruffin (#52) is a disruptive force. He will play college football at Cincinnati. (Photo by Carol Dunning)
Melvin Tate & Marty Farmer
The Oak Park and River Forest High School football team can achieve something tonight the Huskies have not accomplished since 1998 - win a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title. Heck, the last time the Huskies won the conference, none of the current players were even born. To say it's been a long time is quite the understatement.
OPRF is in this position mainly due to a strong defense. During John Hoerster's tenure as head coach, there have been some excellent defensive players, such as Andre Lee, Emonte Logan, Jahmari Moore, Xavier Rowe and Allen Stallings.
I'll never forget the dominant season Stallings put up in 2015, highlighted a pair of very impressive plays.
The defensive end had a key tackle for loss on a fourth down in the closing seconds of OPRF's win over Lincoln-Way East. He also had a sack against Hinsdale Central in which he burst through the Red Devils' offensive line and drilled the quarterback. The ball came loose and was recovered and returned for a touchdown, but somehow the officials ruled the play to be an incomplete pass.
Under the guidance of coordinator Tim Fischer, this year's defense may be the best across the board. They have very good to great players in each unit. Resistance starts up front with a powerful defensive line led by stalwarts Ashford Hollis, Jared Shainis, and Cincinnati-bound Izaiah Ruffin. Next, the linebackers Cedric Cheatham and Danny Francis lead a unit known for making plenty of tackles. And the secondary featuring Aidan Shea and Machi Young provides strong support in the run defense.
The defense is fast, athletic, and disciplined, a combination that lends to greatness. It's the primary reason why I think the Huskies can finally shatter the status quo and have an extended stay in the upcoming 8A playoffs.
OPRF faces Lyons Township Friday, Oct. 19 at OPRF Stadium (7:30 p.m.).
The Lions are having an uncharacteristically poor season, yet this is a rivalry game. I would expect the Lions to come out with extra effort. LTHS would love nothing more than to ruin the Huskies' chances of gaining a share of the conference crown.
I think the game will be close early because I anticipate some hangover from last week's emotional win at Glenbard West. But the Huskies are not going to be denied and should gradually pull away. OPRF is playing at a high level on both sides of the ball and can smell the conference title. A win improves not only playoff seeding but the chances of hosting a first-round game.
The weather will be crisp and cool. In other words, perfect football weather. There hasn't been a capacity crowd yet this season at OPRF Stadium; let's make tonight the first one. The Huskies definitely deserve the support!
Prediction: OPRF 49, LTHS 14
Friars visit Mount Carmel
Fenwick closes out the regular season against Mount Carmel at Carey Field on the latter's campus field. Kickoff is Saturday, Oct. 20 at noon.
It's been a difficult season for the Friars, who have been outscored 86-212 in eight games. Since a 0-3 start, however, Fenwick has won 3 of 5 games and shown progress. Looking ahead to next season, the return of several varsity contributors coupled with an influx of talented underclassmen bodes well for the Friars.
Moreover, if Fenwick (3-5, 2-1 Chicago Catholic League Green Division) can upset the Caravan and De La Salle loses to St. Laurence, the Friars can win the CCL Green title outright due to the head-to-head tiebreaker against Mount Carmel. At 4-5, Fenwick would also qualify for the state playoffs as a conference champion.
If Mount Carmel defeats Fenwick, the Caravan win the CCL Green championship. If Mount Carmel, Fenwick and De La Salle all end up 3-1 in the CCL Green, it's a 3-way tie for the title.
It won't be easy for Fenwick in any aforementioned scenario. Mount Carmel (7-1) averages 28 points per game and is strong on both sides of the ball. The only loss for the Caravan came against Maine South, 21-13, at Gately Stadium in Week 2 action. Mount Carmel also notched significant wins over Loyola and Montini this season.
In terms of football tradition, Mount Carmel is about as good as it gets with 12 state championships.
Fenwick will look to establish a running game with workhorse senior running back Mitch Lopez. A sustainable ground game could open up play-action plays and the passing attack, in general, for quarterback Danny Cronin. Wide receivers Marcus Wright and Brian Moore are his top targets.
Defensively, Konrad Skowyra, Tom Dvorak, Tim Carey, Danny Farnan and Max Forst lead the Friars. Fenwick will need all hands on deck approach to have a chance at containing Mount Carmel.
The Caravan feature multiple scoring threats in Kyle Davis, Kieran Conjar, Demetrius Rias plus quarterback Radomir Premovic. The MC defense is stout, with playmakers in Matt Lenti, Kenenna Odeluga, Ross Valenti and Koron Walker.
There's no doubt the Friars will play with max effort and pride. However, hanging with the Caravan on the scoreboard, let alone pulling off a monumental upset is a big ask. Mark me down for picking Mount Carmel as the CCL Green champs.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 38, Fenwick 13
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.
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