By Marty Farmer
The announcement occurred during Week 2 of last season at 11:11 of the fourth quarter against Wauconda.
"Now in the game, RB quarterback Hunter Hughes," said Paul Kucera, Riverside-Brookfield High School's public address announcer at football games.
With the Bulldogs trailing 14-0, the 6-foot, 170-pound Hughes calmly ran on to the field. Hughes completed 13 of 19 passes for 142 yards; including multiple fourth-down conversions during a spirited rally that culminated with a 21-20 win for RBHS. In the fourth quarter, Hughes threw for a pair of touchdowns and added a TD run on three consecutive possessions.
A star was born.
"Of course, coming into that game and getting the win helped my confidence," Hughes said. "More importantly, that game really started the belief that a game is never out of reach. You should never put your head down because there's always a way to work your way back into a game."
Since his debut against Wauconda, Hughes has taken over the quarterback job and led RBHS to an 11 wins in 15 games and a postseason appearance.
Although the Bulldogs endured a 45-0 loss against Immaculate Conception on Friday, Sept. 29, that RBHS coach Brendan Curtin termed a 'wake up call,' the team is 5-1 and essentially playoff-bound.
Hughes is having a terrific senior season. He has completed 75 of 101 passes (74 percent) for 994 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries.
Hughes' ability to make plays both in the pocket and on the move causes problems for opposing defenses.
"Our coaches are always striving for me to get a good drop and get the ball out on time. That leads to successful plays," Hughes said. "I always try to do that first. You have to throw out of the pocket but also be able to get out and move around. I just let my instincts take over and make whatever play is best for the team."
During the Bulldogs' 48-16 win over Aurora Central Catholic on Sept. 15, Hughes put on a show offensively.
Trailing the host Chargers 8-7 after one quarter, Hughes threw five touchdowns in the second quarter to give RBHS a commanding 41-8 halftime lead. He completed 12 of 13 passes for 278 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in his best statistical performance ever.
However, the signal caller is quick to point out that any success he's enjoyed is courtesy of a team effort.
"Our offensive line is the reason we are a good team," Hughes said. "They don't get the attention they deserve. Jeremy Warren, Seth Keeling, Riley Shaw, Vaughn Hilpp and Josh Ricchio do a great job blocking.
"We also have receivers like Stefan Giminski, Devin Moody, Zach Vaia and tight end Elliot Royer who are great at making plays. They can turn a 5-yard play into a 40-yard play. I think our running back Nicolas Del Nodal is one of the best in the state. We have a very balanced attack."
For all their star power on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs' best entertainer is Hughes. His ability to improvise on the field and make plays with both his arm and feet leave fans on the edge of their seats.
While his focus is about finishing the regular season strong and enjoying an extended stay in the state playoffs, Hughes has thought about the future. He would love to play college football. There is mutual interest as several schools are recruiting him.
"It would definitely be a lot of fun playing college football," Hughes said. "That's something I dreamed about as a kid. At the end of the day, it comes down to what situation is best for me."
Bulldogs blanked by IC
RBHS had their game against reigning Class 3A state champion Immaculate Conception circled on the calendar. Unfortunately, the visiting Knights made it a night to forget by dealing the Bulldogs a humbling 45-0 loss on Friday, Sept. 29.
The much-hyped battle for Metro Suburban Blue supremacy never materialized.
Hughes completed 9 of 15 passes for 54 yards and an interception. The Bulldogs struggled on the ground as well, rushing for 72 yards on 23 carries. Wide receiver Zachary Vaia had three catches for 31 yards.
Defensively, Dominick Rowe forced a fumble and Chris Doherty had a fumble recovery.
Conversely, the Knights (5-1, 2-0) dominated the line of scrimmage with over 600 yards of total offense. Third-string quarterback CJ West, Lazerick Eatman and Kyle Franklin powered a diversified and relentless attack for IC.
RBHS (5-1, 1-1) takes on Fenton Friday, Oct. 6 in Bensonhurst. Game time is 7:15 p.m.