By Marty Farmer
No matter which opponent Oak Park and River Forest drew in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs, the Huskies knew they would have their hands full. That's certainly the case as New Trier travels into town for Friday's 6:30 p.m. game.
Based on both schools' rich tradition in sports, it's a particularly intriguing opener for the state playoffs. Coached by Brian Doll, the Trevians averaged 30.6 points during the regular season. The Huskies, who have a comparable scoring average, have a better defense than New Trier on paper. OPRF has given up 11.6 points per game and held seven opponents to 14 points or less.
If there's an X factor, keep an eye on how New Trier handles the long road trip from Winnetka to Oak Park. Friday afternoon traffic coupled with OPRF fans support could conspire at least a bit against the Trevians.
Regardless, New Trier is battle-tested with a lot of talent and size. Their only two losses were against state title contenders Loyola and Maine South.
Look for a tight game with the Huskies' speed on both sides of the ball making the difference.
Matchup: New Trier (7-2, 4-1 Central Suburban South) vs. Oak Park and River Forest (7-2, 4-1 West Suburban Silver)
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m. at OPRF Stadium
Forecast: 49 degrees
Scouting report on New Trier: The Trevians have plenty of talented players, but none more than Duke Olges. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive lineman/tight end senior is actually one of the top 10 players in the state. He has committed to play football at Northwestern. OPRF will need to account for the Trevians' two-way star at all times on the field. He anchors a strong run defense. A great overall athlete, Olges also plays baseball and lacrosse.
However, the Trevians' size extends beyond the formidable Olges. Linemen Terry Zapf (6-6, 280), David Davidkov (6-5, 250) and Joe Fox (6-5, 210) also fill out their jerseys well. OPRF must hold its own against the bigger Trevians along the line of scrimmage.
Additionally, New Trier quarterback Carson Ochsenhirt and running back Brian Sitzer are top threats offensively. Wide receiver Donovan Perkins adds tremendous speed to the passing attack, while Carson Kasanovich is a very good three-way player at defensive back/wide receiver/returner.
After an embarrassing 41-3 loss against rival Loyola in late August, New Trier has played much better, winning seven of eight games. The Trevians have scored 20 points or more in eight games.
Scouting report on OPRF: After a huge 10-7 win against Glenbard West in Week 8, the Huskies kept their focus with a 48-0 rout over Lyons Township in the regular season finale. The win assured OPRF of its first conference title since 1998.
Sophomore quarterback Jaden McGill has developed nicely as a first-year starter. The Huskies' offensive line has been terrific and playmakers like Nazareth Bryant, Keith Robinson, Trevon Brown and Craig Shelton provide plenty of scoring options.
While the offense and special teams have played well, the defense has powered OPRF all season. The Huskies are stout on all three levels defensively, with significant contributions from Cincinnati-bound Izaiah Ruffin, Ashford Hollis, Cedric Cheatham and Aidan Shea. Other difference-makers include Machi Young, Jake Adams and Daemyen Middlebrooks. Each player knows his role in defensive coordinator Tim Fischer's scheme and the defense seems less prone to giving up big plays compared to past years.
Along with the aforementioned home field advantage, the players have been inspired this season by the leadership of their head coach John Hoerster. He suffered a heart attack towards the end of summer but returned in time to coach the team for the season opener. After having coached most of the season from the press box, Hoerster returned to the sidelines for the Lyons Township game.
However the Huskies' season plays out, the healthy return of Hoerster and chemistry among the players already ensures a successful season that translates well beyond any final score. That said, the Huskies are due for a deep run in the playoffs and this just might be the year they get it done.
Answer Book 2019
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