High school football is back in Illinois for the spring, but during the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is a distinct difference from the usual environment that fills stadiums.
There were no cheerleaders, no drill team, and no Marching Huskies on hand Saturday afternoon for the Oak Park and River Forest High School football team’s home opener against Lyons Township High School. The only spectators in attendance were the family members of the Huskie players.
Despite the lack of a noisy atmosphere, OPRF (1-1) and LTHS (0-1) put on an intense and hard-fought contest that saw the Huskies hold on for an 18-15 victory.
“It’s bittersweet,” said OPRF head coach John Hoerster of the lack of fans. “I feel fortunate that we got to have a home game and we’re playing a season. But on the other hand, this is a community event, and not having the students, band, cheerleaders and drill team, we missed them.
The loss spoiled the delayed debut of new LTHS head coach Jon Beutjer, whose Lions saw their opener last week canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Nevertheless, he seemed pleased with his team’s effort against OPRF, considering the circumstances.
“We hadn’t played in 18 months, and then we were quarantined. We only had three practices coming out [of quarantine],” he said. “I was really proud of the way they fought and of the energy they had. We hurt ourselves a couple of times, but those are things we can improve on.”
After having a tough debut as the starting quarterback in the previous week’s 42-7 loss at Hinsdale Central, senior Jack Landis bounced back with a solid effort for the Huskies, throwing for two touchdowns, a 31-yard strike to Ryan McFadden and a 12-yard toss to Francis Krusinski. Junior Demetrius Dortch had OPRF’s other touchdown, a run from 1 yard out.
LTHS made things interesting late, as junior quarterback Joey Antonietti threw touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Tommy Asleson on back-to-back possessions, the latter coming with 41.4 seconds remaining. But the ensuing onside kick was recovered by OPRF, dashing any hope the Lions had for completing the comeback.
“It feels awesome to get back out here with all the guys,” Antonietti said. “Coach Beutjer told us to keep hammering, and that’s what the offense finally started to do at the end. I think if we do that [from the start], we can win a lot of games.”
“They’re just happy to be playing,” added Beutjer. “They’re very resilient and have been through a lot. They’ve learned tough lessons at a very young age. We’re going to build off of this, and I feel had we earlier displayed the intensity and aggressiveness on offense, this could’ve been a different outcome.”
In observance of the Passover holiday, the next game for LTHS will fall on Thursday, April 1 when the Lions visit Leyden Township.
Bishop Mac 34, RBHS 12
The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team fell to 0-2 on the season with a 34-12 defeat at the hands of Bishop McNamara in Kankakee. The Bulldogs’ next scheduled game is Saturday, April 3 at Ridgewood.
Nazareth 35, St. Laurence 7
After having last week’s opening game with Fenwick canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, the Nazareth Academy football team opened up the season Saturday in grand fashion with a 35-7 rout of visiting St. Laurence.
With J.J. McCarthy having transferred during the summer to IMG Academy in Florida, the Roadrunners played three quarterbacks against the Vikings, and all led scoring drives.
Senior Cass Kinsella started and tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Miller on Nazareth’s first drive. Junior Ben Michel came in next and led the Roadrunners to another touchdown, a 32-yard sprint by Patrick Oden.
Junior Aidan Pieper, a transfer from St. Charles North, played most of the second half and connected with junior Tyler Morris for a 44-yard touchdown.
Junior Quintrell Harris, another transfer (from Lyons Township), had an 80-yard interception return for another score.
The Roadrunners’ next game is scheduled for April 1 at De La Salle.