RB         65
Robeson 26

The Riverside-Brookfield football team’s 65-26 victory over Robeson on Friday gave the Bulldogs that elusive non-conference notch in their belt they have been looking for the past few seasons.

Despite flu-like symptoms, RB wide receiver Mark McDonagh not only played, but set a new state record with 20 receptions in the win. McDonagh tied the previous state mark of 19 catches (with Tim Spaniol of Woodland and Lou Weber of Argo) during the Bulldogs’ season-opening 52-41 loss at Metamora.

“I’m really glad I got another shot at [the record],” said McDonagh, who has 54 receptions for 585 yards this season. “I owe a lot of credit to my teammates, especially Alex Cebular who did a great job blocking.”

While McDonagh’s recent record-breaking run has been remarkable, the Bulldogs (1-2) turned in an impressive collective effort to overwhelm visiting Robeson. Quarterback Billy VandeMerkt (32-of-48, 403 yards) threw six touchdown passes and ran in another score to lead the Bulldogs’ relentless attack. Watoris Slater excited the home crowd on a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown with 2:35 remaining in the first half. Nick Slinkman also contributed five catches for 31 yards, as nine RB wideouts had receptions during the game.

With RB leading 34-26 late in the second quarter, Bulldogs safety Brandon Cook intercepted a Robeson pass at the goal line and returned it all the way back into Raiders territory with four seconds left on the clock.

“I knew [Robeson] was going to throw it and I just jumped the route,” Cook said. “It felt great and I almost made it to the end zone. It felt even better after we scored on the next play.”

After Cook’s long interception return, VandeMerkt tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Matt Kenahan (2 catches, 62 yards, 2 TDs) to make it 41-26 at the break.

In the second half, the Bulldogs dominated both sides of the ball. Offensively, Kenahan kicked a 23-yard field goal, VandeMerkt threw touchdown passes to Slater (9-yard TD) and McDonagh (29-yard TD), and Dave Skowronski closed the scoring on a 19-yard run with 3:29 left in the game. The RB defense also played well, holding the Raiders scoreless in the second half. Cebular had an interception and sophomore linebacker Andy Suzuki and defensive back Nick Callahan collaborated on a momentum-changing play.

“On a fourth-and-four, Andy and Nick blew up a bubble screen,” said RB defensive coordinator Marty Sloan. “Our defense held there and that set the tone for the second half shutout.”

The Bulldogs begin Metro Suburban play against host Fenton (7 p.m.) on Friday. While the defending conference champs are a virtual lock to go undefeated in the Metro Suburban, RB is leaving nothing to chance.

“Coach (Otto) Zeman does a great job of keeping us focused on one game at a time,” McDonagh said. “Robeson is a huge win for us psychologically because it gives us even more confidence especially for the playoffs.”

Metro suburban

Conference standings


Elmwood Park 0-0 1-2
RB 0-0 1-2
Ridgewood 0-0 1-2
Fenton 0-0 1-2