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Ultimately when the Dundee-Crown football team reflects on its 35-13 loss to No. 4 Oak Park-River Forest Friday in a Class 8A first-round game, the No. 13 Chargers can be disappointed, but only for so long.
They will have known how far up the mountain they climbed with head coach Vito Andriola over the last three seasons. They were in uncharted territory for the first time in almost 20 years and when they see it in a positive light, a play here or there could have advanced them to play either No. 12 Niles West or No. 5 Maine South next weekend.
"We didn't play great in the first half and it's against the fourth-ranked team in state, it's 14-7," Andriola said. "I thought it should have been 21-14 us at the least, we just couldn't finish the deal which has been the MO here. There's a future here and we have to keep building on it and getting better."
Andriola is correct. The Chargers (6-4) could have easily been up 21-14 in the second quarter but an incomplete pass on fourth down stalled a drive at the OP-RF 23-yard line and junior Caleb Parson, who carried the team on his back with 168 yards on 34 carries, was stuffed at the Huskies' 10 with 6:53 left in the second quarter. Dundee-Crown did receive the ball first in the second half yet holding penalties and a few fumbles forced a punt from their own 39.
That's when OP-RF (9-1) smelled blood in the water and responded with a 4-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 23-yard pass from Lloyd Yates to Simmie Cobb that put the Huskies ahead 21-7 with 6:34 left in the quarter. Yates found Cobb again for 24 yards to cap a 4-play, 55-yard drive 4:02 later and it was 28-7 OP-RF.
Unlike the first half when OP-RF scored on the opening possession and the Chargers fought right back with a 4-play drive that Parson finished for 46-yards and a touchdown to tie the game at 7, the Chargers didn't have the answer and Andriola had to admit OP-RF was the better team.
"I thought we'd come out better in the second half. I watched the video and they were in the bubble and we couldn't tackle them," Andriola said. "Obviously (Yates) and (Cobbs) are pretty good, we haven't played anybody like those guys in the (Fox Valley Conference)."
Yates, who is drawing offers from Bowling Green and Miami (OH) was 10-for-15 for 260 yards, including a TD run, 3 touchdown throws, 2 to Cobbs (verbally committed to Purdue), who had 6 receptions for 156 yards. Running back Jamal Baggert led the Huskies in rushing with 98 yards in 9 carries.
T.J. Moss ran 9 times for 49 yards for the Chargers and Cordero Parson ran 13 times for 47 yards but OP-RF outgained D-C 506-267 and clearly the Chargers couldn't stop the hurry-up spread or the speed behind it.
"They're a lot faster," said Parson, who felt for his senior teammates afterward. "I'm sad because our seniors were the heart of the team and they played their hearts out and they did everything they could today. I'm kind of happy we can build off this, it's our first playoff game, we can build on it."
"They were a gritty bunch," OP-RF coach John Hoerster said of the Chargers. "What they do, they do it really well. They rep it out, a system the kids bought into and they do a great job of it."