By Marty Farmer
Despite a 40-7 loss against visiting Lake Forest in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs, the Riverside-Brookfield High School football team is coming off a successful season in 2016. RBHS finished second (7-3, 4-1) in the Metro Suburban Blue, trailing only eventual 6A state champion Immaculate Conception (14-0, 5-0).
Optimism remains high at RBHS enters this season with the return of several top players, notably seniors Hunter Hughes (starting quarterback), Nicolas Del Nodal (lead running back) and Stefan Giminski (top wide receiver).
Experienced wide receivers such as Zach Vaia and Devin Moody and newcomer Elliot Royer offer the improvisational Hughes additional options in the passing game. Providing Hunter time in the pocket and holes for Del Nodal at the line of scrimmage is a solid offensive line. Left tackle Jeremy Warren and right tackle Josh Ricchio headline the group.
"I think our skill position players are slightly undersized but lightning quick," RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said. "Guys like Hunter, Nic, Stefan, Zach and Devin are Julian Edelman types. I'm very excited about what we can do in both the run and pass game."
Defensively, linebackers Anthony Walsh, Jeff Bills and Dominic Rowe are top playmakers. Jimmy Mizura, Vaughn Hilpp and Sam Gomez anchor the defensive line.
Senior safety Joey Quarino and two-way players like Del Nodal, Giminski and Vaia comprise the heart of the secondary.
"Any head coach will tell you that you're only going to go as far as your senior class will take you," Curtin said. "I think we have a very tight-knit group. A lot of our guys grew up playing football together, whether on the same team or opposing ones, as kids."
Speaking of the opposition, RBHS will face tough teams in conference. Immaculate Conception is the preseason favorite. The Bulldogs should be in the thick of the race along with Glenbard South and Wheaton Academy.
"One of the interesting nuggets about our conference is the outstanding play we have at the quarterback position," Curtin said. "[Ben Thorson] is a talented quarterback at Wheaton Academy and IC returns its quarterback [Luke Ricobene] as well. And we have Hunter. I think we will see a lot of great quarterback play throughout the course of the season."
The elusive Hughes, who burst onto the scene early last season, has all the physical tools to excel.
"Hunter spins it well and he can make all the throws," Curtin said. "He's truly a dual-threat quarterback who makes plays and can be very creative within the confines of our system."
RBHS opens the season against host Morton on Friday, Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
"Morton is a program that's been on the uptick for a while now," Curtin said.
"We're excited about heading over there because it's a great facility and we like the matchup."