The Bulldogs squandered a 13-point lead in the final four minutes of Friday night’s season-opener, losing to Yorkville 27-26 at Schuey Field.
It was a tribute to the guts and persistence of the Foxes (1-0), who shook off early offensive woes and a rash of penalties to orchestrate two touchdown drives and take the lead on a 25-yard extra-point kick with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. (Riverside-Brookfield’s comeback bid was foiled by an interception in the final seconds.)
But the Bulldogs did quite a bit to contribute to their demise, turning the ball over twice in the fourth quarter (three times in the second half, five total in the game) and failing to score in the final frame despite twice driving the ball to within the Yorkville 10-yard-line.
“We should’ve put them away,” said Bulldogs coach Otto Zeman. “We let them hang around and they did some great things against us.”
The Foxes’ comeback began when they stopped a 52-yard Riverside-Brookfield drive at their own 6 with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter. Yorkville then drove 94 yards to cut the RB lead to 26-20 at the 3:53 mark.
Forty-six seconds later, Yorkville strong safety Jon Britt wrestled the ball away from RB junior wideout Mike Razniewski near midfield after Razniewski caught a pass from junior quarterback Chris Pesek.
Six plays later, the Bulldogs broke up a Yorkville deep-ball on fourth-and-13 from the RB 40, but a pass-interference penalty gave the Foxes a fresh set of downs and possession on the 25, setting up the tying 15-yard TD run by Steven Siebenaller. A delay-of-game penalty tacked on five yards to James Batt’s extra-point kick. Batt also hit a 30-yard extra-point in the second quarter.
The Yorkville offense gained 117 of its total 262 yards in a turnover-free fourth quarter. This productivity came after the Foxes turned the ball over three times, registered only a yard on offense in the first quarter and failed to notch a first down until nearly three minutes into the second quarter. Penalties cost Yorkville nearly 100 yards throughout the game.
Riverside-Brookfield finished with 350 yards on offense, banking on a pass-oriented attack that racked up 124 yards in the first quarter, but only 37 in the fourth.
“We just kind of fell apart towards the end,” said senior wideout Matt Sandrik, who still led all receivers with 12 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. “It just wasn’t clicking.”
That certainly wasn’t the case early. Both of Sandrik’s TD catches were 13-yard end-zone strikes that capped 50-plus-yard scoring drives on the Bulldogs’ first two offensive series. Missing both an extra point and a two-point conversion, RB led 12-0 after one quarter.
Based on their performances through most of Friday’s opener, Sandrik and Pesek (who completed 27 of 57 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions) seem to have what it takes to continue last season’s aerial razzle-dazzle.
“We’ve got pretty good chemistry,” added Sandrik.
The Yorkville offense finally got rolling with an eight-play, 54-yard TD drive that made the score 12-7, which carried into halftime.
RB regained its two-touchdown advantage after the Foxes fumbled on second-and-20 from their own 5 at the 7:08 mark of the third quarter. Bulldogs defensive end Dan Morales pounced on the loose ball and Pesek bulled into the end zone from one yard out on the next play. A Pesek pass then found Razniewski for two.
Yorkville’s Andrew Hardecopf returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and pulled his team within seven. The extra point was no good.
RB countered with its longest scoring drive of the game, a nine-play, 63-yard trek that ended with Pesek’s 22-yard TD pass to Razniewski. The two-point attempt failed.
The Bulldogs will try to rebound Friday night at Sycamore (1-0). Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.