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School started on Monday for Riverside-Brookfield; however, the RB football team has already earned “A’s” across the board this summer according to first-year head coach Jason Rech.
“We asked for three things: alignment, assignment and attitude,” Rech said. “That’s the motto we have going into this season. Our players have to line up the right way, know what they are doing and play with passion, effort and attitude. They did all three [this summer] and we couldn’t be happier as a coaching staff.”
While the Bulldogs unquestionably put in the “hard yards” during the offseason via rigorous conditioning and weightlifting workouts, their first true test comes this Friday night at home against St. Francis.
“Our entire focus is winning Game No. 1,” Rech said. “St. Francis is a great program. We’re not going to back down, though, to any team. We are going to go right at them and see what happens.”
After their tricky season opener against St. Francis, the Bulldogs will battle another pair of tough nonconference opponents in Lemont and Robeson before entering Metro Suburban Conference competition. Riverside-Brookfield is the preseason conference favorite followed by Fenton, Ridgewood and Elmwood Park.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs have a talented mix of returning starters and varsity newcomers (35 juniors) to ease Rech’s debut.
Offensively, the Bulldogs’ proven strengths are in the wide receiving corps and stout offensive line. Six-foot-1, 180-pound senior Watoris Slater is an explosive receiver with big-play capability, and Tyler Radek, missed much of last season due to injury, is a “move the chains” wideout with sure hands.
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Other targets like 6-6 Alex Huffhines and 6-3 Tom Linehan, coupled with tight ends Brad Bednar (6-2) and Chris Duplancich (6-4), round off a loaded unit blessed with size and speed. Anchored by center John Schraidt (6-1, 260) and left tackle Zach Sollinger (6-6, 295), the offensive line is equally impressive,
Radek, Tyler Floros, Andy Suzuki and St. Joseph transfer Blake Beck are the RB running backs ready to follow the line. Although replacing record-setting quarterback Billy VandeMerkt won’t be easy, the Bulldogs are confident the versatile combination of Dave Skowronski and Dylan Beketic can get the job done.
“Both guys will play,” Rech said about his quarterbacks. “We’ll have different packages and they both will do some good things for us this season.”
Flourishing under defensive coordinator Marty Sloan’s attacking style, the RB defense is eager to build on that momentum. Junior Nick Callahan slides over from cornerback to free safety, while the tandem of Brendon McGuire and Brandon Douglass-Reid are the Bulldogs’ new starting corners. Senior captain Alfredo Torres, Bryce Bartlett, Mark Musial, and Beck will lead a hard-hitting group of linebackers. Schraidt, Sollinger, Radicannin, Skowronski and Joe Elliot form the RB defensive line.
Unlike recent years, the Bulldogs will utilize several players on both sides of the football.
“We want our best players on the field so we can do our best to win games,” Rech said. “A lot of guys will be playing both ways but often in certain situations like a third down or a specific package we have.”