DOWNERS GROVE — Oak Park-River Forest coach John Hoerster has put together a quick-strike spread offense that can run as well as pass.
This year, he seems to have the perfect offensive line to make it run at top speed.
Opposing coaches and college recruiters have placed much of their focus on 6-5, 255-pound left tackle Adam Lemke-Bell, the heavyweight from OPRF’s Class 3A state championship wrestling team. Before the season, Lemke-Bell and quarterback Lloyd Yates both verbally committed to Northwestern. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald attended their Week 3 victory over Proviso West in Oak Park.
But on the opposite side of Lemke-Bell, senior Philip Berton is deserving of equal praise, according to Hoerster. The 6-4, 255-pound Berton gives the Huskies a pair of bookend tackles opposing defensive linemen have struggled to contain.
“We tend to try to run the offense as fast as possible,” Berton said. “A lot of times we don’t want the defense to rest and see what’s coming.”
Downers Grove North couldn’t stop OPRF’s offense Friday night. The visiting Huskies won 35-3 in the West Suburban Silver. OPRF will try to beat York next week to match last year’s 5-0 start.
“Someone is going to get a steal [recruiting Berton],” Hoerster said. “He has been outstanding. I think he’s a Big Ten football player.”
Berton’s only current offers are from FCS schools such as Georgia State and South Dakota State. He has received interest from Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale. Berton, whose favorite class is advanced placement calculus, would prefer to go to an Ivy League school if he does not receive any other major scholarship offers.
Hoerster isn’t afraid to brag about the intelligence of his offensive line. The guards are seniors Malcolm Stolarski and Nick Saleh and the center is senior Riley State.
“The good thing about the offensive line is that they block for the run as well as they do for the pass,” Hoerster said. “They are so smart. They are Ivy-League-smart.”
Given how complicated Hoerster’s offense can look, Yates relies on the intellectual ability of his offensive line, particularly future Division I college players such as Berton and Adam Lemke-Bell.
“They are super-smart. They control the line up front,” Yates said. “On so many of our plays, we call audibles. [The line] knows things that confuse me sometimes.”
- The offense for OPRF (4-0, 2-0) was in complete control against Downers North (1-3, 0-2). Yates (9-of-12, 155 yards) threw three touchdown passes, two of them to wide receiver Kejuan Ratcliff (three catches, 62 yards), while Dallis Flowers caught a 39-yard TD pass from Yates to end the second quarter. The Huskies led 21-0 at halftime.
- OPRF’s offense produced four scoring drives. Each lasted less than two minutes of possession time and none went longer than six plays. Yates’ TD pass to Flowers completed a three-play, 79-yard drive of 21 seconds.
- The Huskies outgained Downers North 219-122 in the first half. OPRF maintained a balanced attack with 96 rushing yards and 123 yards passing. Reserve players came in for much of the second half.
- Linebacker Kamal Bey scored a defensive touchdown for OPRF when he returned a fumble for a 74-yard score with 5 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Bey opened the game as a wide receiver and went 41 yards on a screen pass in the first play from scrimmage.
- Downers North was shut out the previous two games and that streak ended when Trevor Hills connected on a 27-yard field goal with 5:25 to go in the third quarter.