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Oak Park’s offensive line, rushing attack leads the way to round one win over U-D Jesuit

By: Ben Szilagy, October 28, 2016, 10:23 pm

Hazel Park — It’s easy to run behind Oak Park’s massive 1,323-pound offensive line. On Friday night, that’s all the Knights had to do to beat U-D Jesuit (26-17) in the Division 2 pre-districts.

“Our line has so much depth,” Oak Park senior running back Najee Trinity said. “We had two JV linemen step up tonight, and I was missing my two starting tackles. I didn’t know what to expect. But my guys made it easy.

“I’ve never played UD before, but I knew coach (Greg Carter) did and I wanted to make sure we played another game.”

Oak Park (7-3) will face Detroit Martin Luther King in the District Finals next week.

The 5-foot-9 transfer from John Glenn continuously disappeared and then exploded through his blockers and ran at will all night long churning out 96-yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns in the first half.

On the opening drive Trinity spearheaded the Knights’ charge on five carries to tie the score, 7-7, to match his counterpart Elijah Collins explosive one play 85-yard drive with 2:42 left in the first quarter.

“Najee did a great job, and so did our offensive line. You have to give our kids a lot of credit for the work they put in tonight against a crowded box,” Carter said.

The Cubs (6-3) regained the lead, 10-7, on the ensuing drive on a 30-yard field goal by Niccolo Seilo with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter.

Oak Park then capitalized off great field position on a crucial fourth down stand from the Knight defense to yield a short field.

“It was an incredible stop. Our kids believed in the play and in the system and played extremely hard in a big moment. You have to make those kids of plays if you’re going to win in the playoffs,” Carter said.

While the defense was making stops, Trinity on offense was nearly unstoppable on the ensuing drive as he ran for a 23-yard gain to bring the Knights into the red zone for the second time.

This time around the Knights didn’t turn the ball over on downs. Instead, Trinity ran his second touch down of the night on a 9-yard carry to regain the lead, 13-10, after the PAT was missed with 2:18 left in the second quarter. Trinity finished the game with 177 yards rushing on 33 carries.

On the Knight’s ensuing possession with another short field, senior Dylan Stackouse broke open a 27-yard touchdown run with 45-seconds left in the half for a 19-10 lead.

The Cubs didn’t quit despite questionable officiating calls, and missed opportunities on offense throughout the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, however, senior Michael Sims stepped up and hit fellow senior Victor Hill on a 44-yard post route to bring the Cubs within two, 19-17, with 5:44 left in the game.

Oak Park also showed it was ready for the moment with its resiliency late in the fourth quarter, according to coach Carter.

“We had to infuse our team with some of our JV guys, and those guys provided a lot of support for us,” he said. “Stackhouse also played well both on both sides of the ball, which he’s been doing three years for us.”

After using Trinity to not only dwindle the clock, and erase the Cubs’ timeouts, Stackhouse put the game away on a game sealing 30-yard touchdown run with 1:37 to play. Robert Daniel also had a clutch one-handed interception with 29 seconds left to preserve the win.

Even though the Cubs provided an early test, coach Carter said there are no easy teams left with the playoffs.

“You have to step up, play fundamental football, and get yourself in a position to win games. There are no easy games left. King is going to be a formidable opponent that we’re looking forward to play next week.”