Updated Aug. 28, 2012 – 11:45 a.m.
St. Francis spoiled the head football coaching debut of new Riverside-Brookfield skipper Brendan Curtin by scoring the game’s first 28 points en route to a 57-12 nonconference victory at Shuey Stadium in Brookfield on Friday night.
Befitting the buzz surrounding Curtin’s opener under the headset and a batch of new Bulldogs starters, the stadium was packed with the anticipation of a new era of RB football. The RB Pupettes even turned in a spirited halftime dance number to the tune of “Good Times,” hopefully an anthem for future Bulldogs’ gridiron glory.
However, “Hail to the Victors” seemed like a much more appropriate song on Friday night, at least from the perspective of veteran-laden St. Francis, which returns 18 starters this year. Led by mammoth Michigan commit Kyle Bosch (6-foot-6, 315 pounds), St. Francis outrushed the Bulldogs 300-45 yards. Sophomore TJ Jackson rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns, setting the tone for St. Francis, which was missing their top running back Jack Petrando (knee injury), the reigning Suburban Catholic Conference Blue Division Co-MVP.
Trailing 28-0 with 1:19 remaining until halftime, RB kick returner Hank O’Neal broke loose for a 90-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a boost. O’Neal also converted a key fourth down conversion run and a few catches out of the backfield in the second half. St. Francis’s Matt Schultz kicked a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to extend the Spartans’ advantage to 31-6.
After holding St. Francis on its opening series of the second half, the Bulldogs responded with their best drive of the night. Junior quarterback Jack VandeMerkt threw a 14-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Joe Odeh, capping off an impressive 19-play, 60-yard scoring march. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ momentum was short-lived as St. Francis put 20 points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
“Certainly, we did some good things at times [tonight] on both sides of the ball,” Curtin said. “The things we didn’t do well like ball security can be improved on. The bottom line is we had a lot of players on the field who got their first taste of varsity football. We’re all accountable as both coaches and players for how we perform. We’ll look in the mirror and see how we can improve individually and as a football team.”
Aside from nursing a few nagging injuries, there’s no rest for the Bulldogs after their 45-point setback. Next up is a 7 p.m. road game on Friday against Lemont, annually one of the best football programs in the Chicago area. Like St. Francis featuring Bosch, the Indians boast a rugged run game anchored by imposing left tackle Ethan Pocic (6-6, 285), who has committed to LSU.