The painful memory of losing to Little Village on penalty kicks during last year’s state playoffs was officially erased by a jubilant Riverside-Brookfield soccer team on Saturday. The Bulldogs crushed St. Francis 6-2 at Shuey Stadium to capture their first-ever regional championship.
“It’s a great feeling to win our regional,” RB forward Ruben Chavez said. “I thought we came out and gave a good performance. This has been the best year for me at RB.”
Only a sophomore, the high-scoring Chavez netted three goals to spark the Bulldogs’ offense against the Spartans. He finished the regular season as RB’s leading scorer with 17 goals, four goals shy of his brother Gibraham, a graduate of RB.
“Everybody on the team was helping me out this year to break my brother’s record,” Chavez said with a laugh. “My teammates and I are able to score goals because we do a good job passing the ball.”
Tyler Polanski had two goals and T.J. Armic added a score for RB in the regional championship. All three scorers from Saturday’s win along with freshmen forwards Cayetano Chavez and Eduardo Marentes should return next season.
“We have a lot of younger players who are going to step it up next year,” said RB senior defender Jerry Brown.
St. Francis tallied a goal to draw the score even at 2-2 early in the second half. However, the poised Bulldogs took charge.
“It kind of gave us a little scare when [St. Francis] tied the game,” Brown said, “but we stuck to our plan and got some good shots off. The key for us is controlling the ball and making nice passes.”
Riverside-Brookfield (14-3) advanced to the St. Francis Sectional where the Bulldogs were to meet Chicago U-High on Tuesday (after deadline).
Top-seeded St. Joseph takes on Nazareth Tuesday (5 p.m.) in the other sectional semifinal match-up.
“I think playing in the sectional is the hardest part of a journey to state,” RB goalkeeper Mark Benya said. “The teams are all good, so we’re going to have to play our best game.”
Earlier in the season, RB cruised to the Metro Suburban Conference title with an 8-2 record and outscored its opposition 39-20 during the year.