The Riverside-Brookfield football players busted through a Bulldogs Bite the Bison paper sign during pre-game introductions against Fenton on Friday night. Forty-eight minutes later, the visiting Bison bit the dust as RB pulled off a 28-7 victory.
While RB (4-3, 3-1 Metro Suburban Conference) was pleased to pay back Fenton, which defeated RB 33-22 earlier this season, the win more importantly marks the Bulldogs’ third straight conference victory and keeps their postseason bid alive.
“We had to win this game,” RB coach Otto Zeman said. “We had our backs to the wall. We’re in sudden death now so we have to win every game.”
Fenton (4-3, 3-1) struck first when Alan Geneva tossed a halfback pass to Vince Esposito on a 62-yard scoring play that put the Bison up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Riverside-Brookfield responded with a 10-play, 76-yard scoring march capped by quarterback Billy VandeMerkt’s one-yard push into the end zone to make it 7-7 with 1:14 left in the first quarter.
After RB linebacker Juan Gomez-Velez recovered a Fenton fumble, the Bulldogs orchestrated another impressive scoring drive. Facing a third-and-19 in Bison territory, VandeMerkt threw a pass to Matt Kenahan who promptly tossed it to a streaking Watoris Slater for a perfectly executed 43-yard hook-and-ladder score.
“We tried to catch them off guard with something they have never seen before,” Slater said. “Offensively, we have a lot of tricks so the defense never knows what’s coming. This was the most important win of the season.”
With momentum on their side, the Bulldogs caused another Fenton fumble that was recovered by linebacker Alex Cebular. Three plays later, RB appeared to score on a 10-yard pass from VandeMerkt (28-of-42, 228 yards) to Mark McDonagh; however, the officials ruled that McDonagh fumbled the ball lunging for the end zone, allowing Fenton a touchback.
The Bison (4 turnovers) continued to struggle offensively when a bad snap on a punt was scooped up by Gomez-Velez at the Bison 25 with 3:34 left until halftime. VandeMerkt connected on three straight passes to McDonagh (18 catches, 116 yards) and one to Slater before the senior quarterback ran in for another one-yard score to lift his team to a 21-7 lead.
In the third quarter, VandeMerkt threw a six-yard slant to McDonagh who scored to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-7 at the 6:21 mark. From there, the RB defense quelled any comeback bid by Fenton with steady pressure. Brandon Cook, fresh off a 16- tackle performance against Ridgewood (Oct. 3), had a 38-yard interception return for RB late in the game.
The Bulldogs host Elmwood Park on Friday at 7 p.m.