Football team welcomes fans back

Senior+captain+Owen+Detmer+jogging+off+the+field

Photo by Tim Mellman

Senior captain Owen Detmer jogging off the field

Friday night lights, the lights that shine bright throughout the town and command the attention of anyone who sees them. Those lights were shut off in the fall of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) to postpone the high school football season until the spring.

When the lights were turned back on in the spring of 2021, something was missing. Yes, the players were back on the field and competition returned, but the fans, marching band, cheerleaders, drill team, and student section were all absent. But on the night of Aug. 27, the lights shined brighter than ever.

As the football team walked onto the field for their first game of the season against Wheaton Warrenville South, they were greeted by a packed house. “I got goosebumps when I looked up and saw the environment we were walking into. The student section was packed, the band was back, and the cheerleaders, it was all back,” says John Hoerster, head coach of the varsity football team. “It’s so exciting to have some sense of normalcy back, to have those things that make Friday night football so special, return.”

“I love having the fans back,” says senior and defensive captain Owen Detmer. “The energy that they bring really pumps me up and helps me elevate my game to the next level.”

Backed by the energy from the fans, OPRF was able to stick with Wheaton South, matching long touchdown runs and big defensive stops. The Huskies trailed 21-14 going into half.

“Going into halftime we were gassed, we really fought hard in the first half and it was super hot. We knew the second half was going to be a grind, but no one in the locker room wasn’t up for the challenge,” says Detmer.

When they walked back onto the field, this time the Huskies were not greeted by a roaring crowd, but by the sight of the student section clearing out. “It really sucked the energy out of the place, it was a big blow,”said Detmer.

“People come to see the band, or see the cheerleaders, or drill team, all three things that are (finished) after halftime. But regardless, it really hurt us, in such a tight game, to lose the energy that the fans provide us,” says Hoerster.

The Huskies ended up falling short of victory, losing 42-28. But the following Friday, they bounced back in a big way, and so did the fans.

“Against Hinsdale South, the student section stepped up in a big way. They were really rocking. The white-out looked so awesome, and the energy they brought to the second game really had an effect on our performance” says Detmer.

“Energy is highly contagious so I love to get up front and show people how it’s done. The student section is important because there’s nothing like being on the field and seeing the stands behind you cheering you on,” says student section leader and senior Lucas Plancon.

OPRF went on to defeat Hinsdale South 48-7, a satisfying ending to senior night. However, the Huskies were unable to carry the positive energy from their second game to their face-off with the ninth ranked team in the state, Glenbard West. The Huskies came out flat and could never make up the ground they lost, falling to the Hilltoppers 60-20. OPRF dropped the following game 35-13 to their rival Lyons Township.

Even with the future uncertain, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country, the football team has one common goal; have fun.

“What is most exciting for me personally is to have somewhat of a normal season. To play with the guys I’ve been playing with since I was six and having the electric atmosphere that comes with having the fans, the band, the drill team, and cheer team back with us.” says senior receiver Eric Locke.

“We’re just so grateful to play, to be together and go out and play each and every day. As a team we are just staying in the moment, trying not to worry about the future.” says Hoerster.

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