DGN loses 30-28 heartbreaker to OPRF


Alex Rogals

DGN defensive back Joe Chiarelli makes a tackle on an OPRF ballcarrier. (photo via Wednesday Journal)

Anthony Marsicano, Sports Editor

The Downers Grove North Varsity football team played their furthest away game Friday night as they headed to Oak Park to play their conference rival Oak Park and River Forest. Both teams entered the game with 1-3 records that included losses to two top 25 teams in Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central. With two games remaining, DGN needed just one win to clinch a playoff appearance, and they looked to clinch it against OPRF.

OPRF received the kickoff at 8 pm from Trojan kicker Sean Ryniec. Officiating became a central focus of the game early on as the Huskies were allowed to run the kick back over 100 yards for a touchdown even though the play should have been dead from the start. IHSA rules dictate that if a returner catches a ball in the endzone, the play automatically results in a touchback and the ball is to be placed at the 25-yard line. The referees corrected their blunder after an earful from head coach Joe Horeni and the rest of the DGN coaching staff and OPRF was forced to restart their drive. Despite the setback, the Huskies scored first with a touchdown with 6:56 remaining. The Trojans matched the scoreboard as quarterback Sam Reichert found Ethan Thulin for a 72-yard touchdown play.

They got possession back rather quickly but OPRF came up with an interception with 2:15 left in the quarter. They marched down the field to score a rushing touchdown, their second score of the game. There wasn’t much else eventful in the second quarter aside from OPFR extending their lead to 14-7, what followed was a series of punts until halftime.

The Trojans received the second-half kick and finally answered OPRF with a touchdown 2:42 into the half by running back Noah Battle. DGN wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter. 

The Huskies scored touchdowns late in the third quarter and then again one minute into the fourth.  The extra point on that latter score was blocked by Trojan defender Josh Lambert, and so DGN went to work now facing a 27-14 deficit with 11 minutes left in the game. The Trojans answered OPRF’s two touchdowns with consecutive scores of their own; They ran a rushing play for the first and Reichert hit receiver Tommy Finely for his second passing touchdown of the game; Trojans led 28-27 with 2:30 remaining. They wouldn’t hold that lead for long, after a solid kick return it only took OPRF a few plays to get into field goal distance and strike. DGN went from being up by one to down by two in just over a minute, they got the ball back with less than a minute remaining in the game. Their first few plays were unsuccessful, but Reichert found Finley again for a 37-yard catch to set the team up for a potential game-winning field goal. Ryniec lined up for a 36-yard field goal from the right hash and was iced by a timeout from OPRF’s sideline. The kick was no good as time expired, barely missing to the right of the goal post. DGN lost 30-28. As their playoff aspirations remain just that, aspirations.

DGN’s homecoming game is next week against Lyons Township. Both teams are 4-4 with losses to Glenbard, Hinsdale, and York but LT beat OPRF by 22 points back in September. It’s a true win-or-go-home game, there’s a playoff berth on the line for the winner and the end of the season looming for the loser. Kickoff is at 7 pm.