Facing playoff elimination, the Riverside-Brookfield Bulldogs answered the call on Friday night and took an important step towards playing in the postseason with an impressive 45-14 win over Elmwood Park.
RB was led by junior quarterback Chris Pesek, who started the game by throwing an 18-yard touchdown to receiver Dragan Milic. He followed that up with a 19-yard strike to Matt Sandrik to make the score 12-0 with 6:45 left in the first quarter. The young quarterback looked sharp, making good reads and strong passes, on his way to 296 yards and six touchdowns?”in the first half. Pesek spent the second half on the sidelines, watching his defense protect a dominating 39-0 lead.
When asked what he could attribute his success to, Pesek was quick to point out that it was a team effort.
“We played our game,” he said. “Our receivers beat [the Elmwood Park defense] off the line. The [offensive] line is making a spot for me and the defense gave me the ball.”
After some subpar performances of late, Pesek is heating up. And as his fortunes go, so go the fortunes of the Bulldogs. Friday night he threw touchdowns to Milic (17 yards, TD), Sandrik (93 yards, 3 TDs), Russ Kesman (14 yards, TD) and Oscar Reyes (136 yards, TD). Now the Bulldogs are one win away from their sixth straight playoff appearance.
Head Coach Otto Zeman talked of Pesek’s recent turnaround after the game. “He won six games for us last year. He hit a rough patch. It’s a mental game. When you play quarterback for us there’s a lot of notoriety, but also a lot of pressure. He turned it around himself.”
For the season, Pesek now has 2,125 yards passing, with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
About the only thing that went wrong for Pesek Friday night were several dropped balls in the first quarter. RB’s receivers quickly found their hands again, however, and when asked if he was concerned about it, Zeman flatly said, “No. We’ll keep working on it.”
The RB defense came to play too, stifling Elmwood Park’s offense. The Bulldogs held the Tigers scoreless until well into the fourth quarter.
Defensive coach Jerry Blew has made some personnel changes in the secondary and on the defensive line and it seems to have worked. He’s also trimmed the playbook down to make the schemes a little more user-friendly.
“We’ve gone back to a more simplistic approach. We’re not trying to run six or seven things, but more like two things really well.”
The Bulldogs will bring their aerial assault and rigid defense to the field on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) as they face the Ridgewood Rebels in another do-or-die game. If RB wins it will be one of several teams with a 5-4 record. Based on a point system that considers the number of wins that your opponent has, RB would have enough points to qualify for a playoff spot. A loss on Friday night will prevent RB from making the playoffs.