The Riverside Brookfield High School football program will celebrate its centennial this weekend. The RBHS football community has been looking forward to the anniversary for quite some time, but the celebration might have been forgotten had head coach Brendan Curtin not been designing a RBHS football camp T-shirt.
"About 3 or 4 years ago I had to come up with a design for one of our upcoming camps," Curtin said. "We chose one of those college designs with the team's name and the year they were established. I did a little research and found out our team's first year was in 1917."
Members of all ages of the RBHS community will gather together at 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 15 at Kennelly Stadium for "The Return," which will celebrate the RBHS football team turning 100 this year.
From 4 to 5:45 fans, families and alumnus are invited to Kennelly Stadium to watch all levels of the football program practice – but that's not all that will be going on. As the Bulldogs run through their sets and prepare for the upcoming season, so will the band, cheerleaders and poms team. And if all that isn't enough, there will be stations and games for fans young and old to participate in.
"I don't want to call it a circus," Curtin said with a laugh, "but it'll be entertaining."
Once practice is over, all adults are invited to the Brookfield Ale House for an adult social.
"You know how stories tend to get embellished as time goes on," Curtin said. "We want to give our former players an opportunity to get back together, tell those stories – no matter how true they may be – and share a couple of laughs."
The celebration weekend will finally wrap up the next morning at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the RBHS cafeteria.
"This is really just a celebration of 100 years of RB football," Curtin said. "We want to give everyone a chance to come back, get together and experience that family-like atmosphere and brotherhood that can only be experienced as part of a team."
While the idea for the anniversary weekend came a couple years ago, the 2016 season was what started getting the celebration's wheels moving.
Curtin said that the main goal for their preparation was just to get the word out.
"We used a lot of social media and word of mouth and even you guys at the Landmark," Curtin said, "and I think we should have a pretty good turnout."
In fact, the more former Bulldogs that show up, the more this season's theme – HIT: Honor the future, Inspire the present, Transform the future – will mean.
"We want to show the boys that they are a part of something special, that they're a part of something bigger than themselves," Curtin said. "And I think the more guys they see who have come before them – guys who worn the blue and white, guys who have worn their numbers – the more they'll be able to honor the past."
If Curtin's theme works as planned, listening to stories of Bulldog lore will inspire the team, which in turn will transform the future of the program. But in order for the future to be bright, the team has to put the work in now.
The Bulldogs started their summer camp in early June and have been practicing four days a week since then.
"They're long days," Curtin said, "but the guys are really excited to be out there, having fun and enjoying each other's company."
Part of that excitement and camaraderie might be partly influenced by the overnight trip to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa that the team just took.
"As far as I can remember, this is the first time the football team has done an overnight trip like this and it was a really great experience for everyone," Curtin said. "We did some team building stuff mixed with preparation for the season and everything just seemed to click."
That's a good sign for the Bulldogs, who will have five starters returning on offense and six on defense while essentially all key special teams players will be returning in 2017. The Bulldogs finished 7-3 last year, 10-2 in 2015, and 6-4 in 2014 so a winning pattern has been established under Curtin.
"I'm really excited to develop these kids," Curtin said. "We've got a new defense we're putting in and we'll score some points this year. It's going to be fun."
The Bulldogs kick off their 2017 campaign at Morton (7:30 p.m.) on Friday, August 25, followed by another road game against Wauconda (7: 15 p.m.) on Friday, Sept 1.
RBHS returns for its home opener against Ridgewood on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7:15 p.m.
But until the season begins, the fun starts this weekend with "The Return."
And if everything goes according to plan, it's sure to be a HIT.