It was not difficult to separate winner from loser after Oak Park High’s 14-3 loss to visiting Kern Valley in a Southern Section Division IX football playoff quarterfinal Friday.
Oak Park players walked 1 or 2 at a time up the long, darkened ramp to the team’s locker room. They were at a loss to describe the end of a season in which they surpassed any expectations anyone could have had for a 17-player team.
The Kern Valley side, however, was at neither a loss for words nor noise. A group of 50 to 60 lingered on the field well after the game had ended.
“There just weren’t enough of them to keep up physically with us,” Kern Valley Coach Jim Thompson said while surrounded by a mob of players and supporters. “They weren’t prepared for the way we were hitting them.”
The physical Kern Valley defense held Oak Park’s top offensive threats, Jess Garner and Jason Stein, to a combined 36 yards. The rest of the team didn’t fare much better, gathering just 94 additional yards while giving 115 away in penalties.
If there is any consolation for Oak Park, it is that this year’s team posted the best record (10-2) in school history. In 1983, the Eagles advanced to the semifinals but finished with a 10-3 mark.
“It’s been a successful year for us. The kids should be proud of what they did,” Eagle Coach Ron Veres said. “Everything, our size, number of players, finally caught up with us.”
The Eagles did have their share of chances, however. In the second half they took possession on their 43 twice, once on their own 41, and with 4:19 left, Mike Wooton recovered a fumble on Kern Valley’s 33, yet they failed to score.
“It just seemed like every time we got going we got penalized and were trying to get things going from a first and 15,” Veres said.
Oak Park scored first on a 37-yard field goal by Garner with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Kern Valley (10-2) took a 7-3 lead on the only pass quarterback Tim Plante completed, a 15-yard strike to Tim McVey.
The Broncs scored again on a 39-yard run by Mark Forkner with 6:23 remaining in the third quarter. Forkner finished with a game-high 136 yards in 22 carries.
Oak Park looked as if it might come back after Wooton’s fumble recovery, but Gary Silverman’s pass was intercepted by J. P. Clinton.
Stein, a senior who is considered a Division I prospect, was held to 14 yards in 13 carries and fumbled once. Garner, also being looked at by major colleges, had 22 yards in 7 carries. Stein finished the year with 985 rushing yards, Garner with 1,029.