By Marty Farmer
In recent seasons, the Oak Park and River Forest area high schools have had questionable calls by referees go against them late in football games. Of course, no one will forget the "Travesty at Triton" in 2016 when a gross misapplication of a rule cost Fenwick a chance to advance to the Class 7A state final.
Friday night at Oak Park Stadium, OPRF experienced another controversial ending in a 24-17 loss against Waubonsie Valley.
With the Huskies on the move at the Waubonsie Valley 15-yard line and 15 seconds left in regulation, OPRF quarterback Jaden McGill attempted to pass but was sacked with nine seconds left. With no timeouts left, the Huskies hurriedly lined up in order to spike the ball and get one more play.
Unfortunately, Waubonsie Valley wouldn't let McGill get up after the aforementioned sack. For unsportsmanlike measure, the Warriors threw the ball toward the sideline to run the clock out. With about one second left, Waubonsie Valley was flagged for a delay-of-game penalty.
The Huskies should have received one more play after the infraction. They didn't.
"The explanation was that the penalty happened after the clock ran out," OPRF head coach John Hoerster said. "If it had happened before the clock ran out, then it would've been an automatic first down. (The refereeing crew) made the assumption that the clock ran out, but from where I was sitting, the clock hadn't run out.
"What (Waubonsie Valley) did was to take the ball and throw it away and do different things to get the clock to run out," Hoerster added. "The clock hadn't run out; it was still ticking. But we couldn't do anything because they had taken our ball and thrown it away and we couldn't get set. So the officials assumed the clock had run out, and I don't know how they would've assumed that because it hadn't. We were up in the press box yelling at our guys to get on the ball, but the officials called the game."
Hoerster stressed that the game's bizarre ending wasn't the reason the Huskies lost.
"It's disappointing that it ends like that but it is what it is," he said. "We've got to do better things to make sure it doesn't come down to something like that."
Overall, OPRF had several good moments but also critical lapses at inopportune times against a solid opponent.
"I told the kids that there are a lot of good things that happened," said Hoerster, who coached from the press box as part of his recovery from a serious heart attack this summer. "(But) we cannot give up the big play. Our defense did a nice job shutting them down, and then all of a sudden a big play would be given up. We've got to be more disciplined and understand our assignments better."
Turnovers also cost the Huskies.
OPRF senior wide receiver Trevon Brown cited another reason for the loss.
"We need to pick up our intensity late in the game when we're down and our defense is getting pushed back," he said. "I think we need to stay positive and keep pushing."
McGill, a promising sophomore with plenty of ability and poise, made his first varsity start under center.
On his first carry, McGill picked up 10 yards on a run to move the chains. However, the Huskies eventually punted (8-yard punt), which gave Waubonsie Valley good field position from its own 49.
On the Warriors' first offensive play of the season, running back Bryce Logan (8 rushes, 96 yards) scampered 51 yards for a touchdown. Cross Holmes' extra point made it 7-0 Warriors less than five minutes into the game.
Early in the second quarter, an illegal block penalty on Waubonsie Valley during an OPRF punt pinned the Warriors deep in their own territory. After the Huskies defense forced another punt, Aidan Shea's nifty punt return gave the Huskies excellent field position at the Warriors' 27.
Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, McGill led a 6-play scoring drive, highlighted his 8-yard touchdown run. Henry Darrow's extra point tied the game up at 7-7 with 7:50 left before halftime.
On the ensuing kickoff, Waubonsie fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Huskies at the Waubonsie Valley 23. OPRF took advantage as McGill's scored on a 2-yard run. Darrow's kick made the score 14-7 at the 3:19 mark of the second quarter.
Logan returned the ensuing kickoff to the OPRF 42. Given its own short field, the Warriors struck quickly as Julian Cain (2 catches, 69 yards, 2 TD) reeled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jack Drow. Holmes' second PAT tied the game up at 14-14, just 16 seconds after McGill's second score.
On the final series of the first half, the Huskies went for 44 yards on 11 plays. Darrow's 44-yard field goal gave OPRF a 17-14 lead at the half.
Huskies scoreless in second half
"We started off a little slow," Brown said. "We picked up the pace in the second quarter. Coming out of halftime, we had the momentum. In the second half, it flipped really quickly."
Midway through the third quarter, a Holmes punt bounced off the shoulder pads of an OPRF player and was recovered by the Warriors at the Huskies' 28. Drow's 19-yard pass to Jack LeMoine set up Holmes' 23-yard field goal which tied the score at 17-17 with 2:28 left in the third.
OPRF picked up a pair of first downs on its next drive, but then McGill fumbled the ball when he was sacked.
Waubonsie Valley recovered on the Huskies' 32. Early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down play, Drow (6-for-8, 96 yards, 2 TD) connected with Cain for a 29-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 24-17 Warriors with 10:12 remaining in regulation.
McGill completed several clutch passes to get the Huskies deep in Warriors' territory before the aforementioned final play of the game occurred.
McGill finished 17-for-30 for 175 yards and rushed 22 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he appeared to have command of the offense.
"Jaden ended up coming out of the summer doing some really good things," Hoerster said. "We thought he gave us the best chance of being successful. I was really happy with how he played tonight. I think he played outstanding football."
"Jaden did really good," Brown added. "He's an excellent runner and made several nice passes."
Brown snagged eight catches for 101 yards and added 22 yards on three carries. Nazareth Bryant (5 carries, 25 yards; 3 catches, 33 yards) also contributed on offense.
Defensively, Naahlyee Bryant and Cincinnati recruit Izaiah Ruffin each registered a sack. OPRF held the Warriors to 201 yards of total offense and just two first downs.
While Hoerster liked his team's effort, the Huskies have some things to work on.
"We've got some things to clean up," he said. "I told the kids it's Week 1. The biggest improvement we can make is between Weeks 1 and 2. So they've got to be ready to work because I know the coaches are going to be ready to work."
The Huskies visit Downers Grove South on Friday, Aug. 31. The conference crossover game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
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