By Marty Farmer
Leading into the high school football season, Riverside-Brookfield coach Brendan Curtin expressed excitement about the Bulldogs' top offensive playmakers, notably quarterback Hunter Hughes, running back Nicolas Del Nodal, and wide receiver Stefan Giminski.
Those three players assumed lead roles in spoiling Morton's Friday home opener with a 33-0 win in Berwyn.
RBHS scored a touchdown on its first four possessions to build a commanding 27-0 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs had a 9-play, 57-yard drive on their first possession, setting the tone for a lopsided first half. Hughes threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Giminski which opened the scoring barrage midway through the first quarter.
Hughes collaborated with Giminski again on a short screen pass that the latter transformed into a spectacular 51-yard touchdown as he eluded several defenders down the right sideline to extend the lead to 13-0 at 2:41 of the first quarter. Giminski finished with eight catches for 108 yards. He also had the lone interception of the game.
Del Nodal joined the fun with a 7-yard scamper into the end zone to build the Bulldogs' lead to 20-0 with 9:56 remaining in the second quarter.
Set up by Zach Vaia's 46-yard punt return, Del Nodal scored again on a 4-yard run to make the score 27-0 midway through the second quarter. Del Nodal rushed 17 times for 120 yards.
"Coming into the season, we knew what Nic is capable of on offense," Curtin said. "It was just a matter of time before he found his groove."
Wide receivers Jake Vaia and Zachary Vaia, tight end Elliot Royer and running back Joey Quarino also made some plays offensively for the diversified RBHS attack.
"Each guy did some pretty good things but everything started up front with our offensive linemen," Curtin said. "The line did a good job of opening holes for Nic and giving Hunter Hughes adequate passing time."
The Bulldogs' offensive line, consisting of Josh Ricchio, Seth Keeling, Riley Shaw, Darian Dorantes and Jeremy Warren, controlled the line of scrimmage, which allowed the team's playmakers plenty of opportunity to gain huge chunks of yardage.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Bulldogs tacked on a touchdown with 7:44 left in regulation when Hughes (17-for-23, 170 yards) tossed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Moody (4 receptions) as the finishing touch to an impressive 33-0 victory.
Defensively, the Bulldogs looked even better, courtesy of a gang-tackling approach to shut down Morton running back David Wilson and quarterback Fabian Lopez.
Jeff Bills, Dominick Rowe, Vaughn Hilpp, Anthony Walsh, James Mizura and Quarino anchored a stingy defense, which denied the Mustangs any first downs in the first half. For the game, Morton had 21 carries for four yards.
"Getting a shutout in Week 1 is obviously a great thing," Curtin said. "Our players did a great job in terms of carrying out the game plan, which was to put the best tackling team on the field. The kids really rallied to the ball and did a good job in that regard."
RBHS (1-0) takes on host Wauconda (0-1) Friday, Sept. 1 at 7:15 p.m.
Also named the Bulldogs, Wauconda is vying for a third straight postseason appearance this season. The team features senior quarterback Andrew Saccameno, twin brothers/tight ends Andrew and Matthew Nolan and running back Andry Nevski (missed last season with a torn ACL.). Sonny Piccolo, Chris Ochoa and Cameron Francis offer depth at the running back position.
Richmond-Burton defeated Wauconda 27-14 in Week 1 of the high school football season.
"Wauconda is always a well-coached team," Curtin said. "Factor in the hour-and-a-half drive up north and it's going to be a long day for our kids. We are looking forward to the challenge, however, and we've had some good battles against Wauconda in recent years."