Huskies crush Friars in return of Crosstown Classic

The Crosstown Classic is back–and this time OPRF sealed a decisive 35-7 win.

The Oak Park and River Forest High School and Fenwick High School football teams played each other for the first time since 1989 on Aug. 27 at 9:30 a.m. Seatgeek Stadium in Bridgeview hosted the Crosstown Classic, reviving a tradition that came to an abrupt end 33 years ago.

The last time they played, Fenwick beat OPRF 15-12. But with emphasis on team culture and community, the OPRF football team sent the message that they are a force to be reckoned with, the coach and players said.

Before 1989, the crosstown rivals played each other a total of seven times annually, beginning in 1982. “Urban legend has it that a fight broke out in 1989 during an OPRF vs Fenwick Hockey Game,” Head Football Coach John Hoerster said. “It was so bad that the schools decided not to play the annual football game the next year. This has been perpetuated for a long time.”

The idea of bringing back the Crosstown Classic this year stemmed from a need for both teams to have a week one opponent, according to OPRF Athletic Director Nicole Ebsen. “It was good timing. Stars aligned,” she said. “Myself and their AD (Athletic Director) thought if we set it up for the right environment and do it safely with good sportsmanship, we could carry it out.”

Going into the big game, OPRF led the series 5-3, falling to the Friars in their last game. This year, OPRF was ready to reclaim its stake over the defending 5A State Champions.

The OPRF-Fenwick rivalry runs deep within the community “because we are so close. Our kids know their kids, and their kids know our kids. There’s a banter between those two cultures,” said Hoerster. In fact, OPRF Huskie Barstool on Instagram has a running tally of the number of times OPRF has beaten Fenwick this year.
According to Hoerster, the team knew what they needed to do to win and were all on the same page: “Our emphasis all summer and all offseason was to just follow the process of becoming a better football team every day, and our players bought into this.” Their success comes from the expectation that everyone will do what they’re expected to do, he said, adding that, “That’s all we ask of them.”

“We were ready. We were prepared,” Senior Quarterback Jack Gooch said when asked about the Fenwick game. Before the Aug. 27 game at Seatgeek, the team went early on Friday afternoon and stayed in a local hotel. Hoerster wanted the players to be together before the game on Saturday morning, he said. “Walking into the stadium was unbelievable. It was so professional. We felt like a real football team,” said Gooch.

In the first quarter, after OPRF was stopped on their first drive, Gooch connected with Wide Receiver Ryan Martin to score the game’s first touchdown. “We’ve been practicing that play all summer. My eyes lit up when I heard coach call that play. I trust him more than anyone else,” said Gooch.

A big part of this team is how close they are. Like most of the seniors, Gooch and Martin have played together since eighth grade.

On the defensive side, junior Khalil Nichols stepped up big for the Huskies with three interceptions. “I was just focused on winning. I was ready to shut them down.” he said. Last year, Nichols was a varsity practice player, meaning he practiced with varsity, but didn’t play in games. This year, he’s focused on contributing in his new role, and doing whatever it takes to help the team win.

After halftime, the spirits were up on the OPRF side of the stadium. “It’s going really well,” said Maurice Carter, whose son, Amauri Carter, plays on the team. “Hopefully they can keep it up,” he continued.

Despite being outnumbered, the fans showed up big, screaming chants and becoming louder each time OPRF made a big play. “I was surprised how loud our fans were. Fenwick had more people than us. But, our fans definitely brought energy to the game,” said Gooch.

Beating Fenwick gave the team confidence, but they aren’t done yet; in fact, they are just getting started. Hoerster said they are already focused on the rest of their season with big conference games coming up including Glenbard West, Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central.