Saturday night, tears filled the eyes of some of the Oak Forest Raiders football fans, as it looked like retiring coach and athletic director Dave Klusacek was going to ride off into the sunset with a loss to end his career.
It was late in the fourth quarter and the Raiders were down 16-6 against the Homer Stallions. But, there wasn't any quit in the Raiders, who scored a touchdown to pull within striking distance of the Stallions.
Then, with less than 2 minutes left in the game, a perfect Disney-like ending unfolded at Ron Kaleta Field. The Raiders quarterback unleashed a hail mary that found its intended reciever and extended the Raiders season for at least one more game.
"This is real nice to get this win at home,” Klusacek said. “We go to the next game, which is against top-seated New Lenox. It's going to be a tough game, but we're up for it."
For the past 22 years, Klusacek has devoted himself to the Raiders, patrolling the sidelines before also becoming athletic director of the program. He is also currently the athletic director of the Southwest Midget Football League.
“[Klusacek] has touched the lives of many and has always practiced and coached good sportsmanship and the fundamentals of football,” wrote Raiders Treasurer Chick Toland in an email to Patch. “Dave has always gone the extra mile to ensure he was current on new techniques, rules and injury concerns. Dave has volunteered his time away from his family tirelessly year after year."
After the season, Klusacek will hang up his whistle for now, as he pursues his studies to become a pastor.
"I'm actually going to be pastor right down the street here in Oak Forest,” he said. “Right behind Beggar's Pizza. The church is called Oak Street Community Church. I'm the lay pastor now."
With the end of his career with the Raiders in sight, Klusacek said that his time with the organization has been everything he could have hoped for and more.
“It's been a great 22 years here,” he said. “The kids have been great, the parents are fantastic, it's been a fantastic time. I hope kids continue to come out and play for the Raiders and all the other programs."
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