Odell thriving with injury behind him

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Oak Park-River Forest is getting big plays from a deserving player during the last two weeks.

The Huskies have moved into second place in the West Suburban Silver with a pair of unlikely victories the last two weeks.

Each time, linebacker-wide receiver Tom Odell was in the middle of the action for OPRF. Odell is the only player on the Huskies to be on the field for every play in upsets over Lyons at home and Hinsdale Central on the road.

The win at Hinsdale Central is the biggest of his career for second-year coach John Hoerster.

Odell is getting it done on both sides of the ball, a scenario that may have seemed improbable after the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior missed all of last season after breaking his left leg and tearing two ligaments in his knee. The injury came at the end of preseason practice last year just days before the season was scheduled to start.

Odell was a defensive back two years ago. He’s a middle linebacker now.

“Our best player is the Mike linebacker,” Hoerster said in the summer. “That’s him.”

In Friday night’s 42-41 overtime victory at Hinsdale Central, Odell recovered Jack Adams’ fumble and returned it 30 yards to the Red Devils’ 21. The Huskies (5-2, 3-2) scored in three plays to pull within 28-13 with just 16 seconds before halftime.

In the third quarter with the Devils leading 31-20, Hinsdale attempted a fake punt on its own 46-yard line, but Odell wasn’t fooled and tackled punter Chase Hamilton for a 1-yard loss. OPRF scored six plays later on quarterback Lloyd Yates’ 16-yard TD pass to Ryan Nelson.

On OPRF’s next drive to go ahead 34-31, Odell caught a 21-yard pass from Yates on the drive’s third play.

“He’s a warrior,” Hoerster said of Odell. “He’s out there going two ways. He’s a captain and a leader. He’s the hardest worker on the team. He’s a kid who can play six different positions. He’s a champ.”

For Hoerster, even more impressive is Odell as a student. He ranks near the top of his class and was scheduled to take the ACT exam Saturday morning less than 12 hours after the Huskies were able to beat Hinsdale for the first time since winning 21-7 in 2006.

Odell secured OPRF’s win over Lyons, 35-34, with an interception to end Lyons’ final drive with 34.2 seconds remaining.

He was Yates’ favorite target in the win with a team-leading five catches for 84 yards.

The Huskies host Morton (2-5) in a conference crossover game at 7:30 p.m. Friday with hopes of clinching their first playoff appearance since 2009 and their second playoff appearance in the last six years.

“I feel fantastic,” Odell said. “It’s tough when you go both ways. You can’t step back. I’ll do whatever the team needs in the game.”

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