The best rivalry among many competitive battles waged between West Suburban (Silver) Conference foes Oak Park and River Forest and Lyons Township is, arguably, baseball. On Saturday afternoon just a few steps south of the OPRF baseball diamond, the Huskies and Lions' lacrosse teams got after it pretty good at Oak Park Stadium as well, with LT claiming a 10-4 victory.
After the teams played to a 1-1 tie late in the opening quarter, the Lions took the lead for good at 2-1 on John Salerno's goal with 3:47 left in the first quarter. Scott Doten added a goal, assisted by Will Konstant to extend the LT lead to 3-1. LT attackers Konstant and Luke Gallagher added two goals and a goal, respectively, in the second quarter as LT entered halftime with a 6-2 advantage. The Huskies' skilled midfielder/attacker Max Davis netted a goal with 52 seconds remaining before halftime to keep OPRF within striking distance.
In the third quarter, Gallager tallied two more goals as the Lions built their advantage to 8-2. The teams split four goals in the fourth quarter as Gallagher picked up his fourth score and Doten his second goal on the afternoon, while Davis scored again and senior midfielder Stephen Golz found the back of the net for OPRF.
"We didn't play our best ball [today]," Konstant said about LT's performance. "We had a lot of mental errors and a lot of penalties playing nine minutes with a man down. We're happy with the win, but we have to work past making mistakes."
From the Huskies' perspective, while the loss was disappointing, progress was made against the highly-regarded Lions (2-0), who lost 8-4 to eventual state champion New Trier in the state semifinal playoffs last season.
"I think we came out better against LT than the past few years," OPRF coach Dan Ganschow said. "LT's first six goals were based on one-on-one or transition opportunities. They really didn't get their settled offense working, which for me as a coach is a positive thing. I thought we played aggressively and carried a good physical aspect to the game."
Of course, when it comes to physical and athletic play, the Lions' Konstant is about as good as it gets. Kontstant, who will play football at Dartmouth next year, is an imposing, athletic attacker who fuels the state-contending Lions' intensity on the field. He scored seven goals in the Lions' 14-4 season-opening win over York .
While Konstant and Gallagher are the primary attackers for LT, goalie Ricky Razo, defender Alex Fisher, attacker John Evans, Doten, Salerno and several make up a well-rounded squad.
"I feel like our potential is immense," Razo said. "I'm hoping we get a rematch with New Trier and take it all the way this year to a state title. We have scoring power and good defense, but most of all we have a lot of unsung heroes on our team."
Despite a 0-2 start for the Huskies this spring, a similar all-hands-on-deck approach is essential to their success in the view of junior goalie Kevin Rogers. Golz, Davis, Jordan State and defender Aidan Jenkins are some of the other leaders for OPRF.
"The key for us is depth," Rogers said. "We can't necessarily match all the teams we play skill-wise in terms of their best players, but if we come hard with four lines, we can be successful. I think the great thing about our program is we practice every day trying to get better as a team and everybody gets along well."
As for the OPRF-LT lacrosse rivalry, it's alive and well.
"It's good for us to play tough competition like LT," Jenkins said. "We learn how we can improve and build confidence. The crowd support was great [on Saturday]. When so many parents and friends come out, it's really encouraging and motivating for our team."