After being routed 42-0 by powerhouse Lemont over the weekend, Riverside-Brookfield head football coach Brendan Curtin wasted no time expressing the importance of the Bulldogs’ upcoming home game against Gary West Side.
“Every week our goal is to go 1-0 but this week you could say is our Super Bowl,” Curtin said. “We don’t want to go into Week 4 without a win.”
As cliché as it sounds, the Bulldogs’ takeaway from their Lemont lesson wasn’t whether they won or lost but how they played the game, especially from the long term perspective of Curtin committed to building sustained success for the RB program.
“Coming into the game we knew we had our hands full with Lemont,” Curtin said. “They are as good as advertised, an established program which annually contends to win a state championship. There are not a lot of weak spots with Lemont.
“Everything is new with us. We’re still trying to put guys into the right spots and figure out everybody’s role. Our guys are working hard but it’s still a process.”
Loading up behind LSU-bound 6-foot-6, 285-pound Ethan Pocic, the Indians dominated the line of scrimmage and featured running back Christos Giatras en route to a 42-0 advantage at halftime. Conversely, the Bulldogs, led by promising but inexperienced varsity quarterback Jack VandeMerkt, struggled to offer any offensive reply to the Indians’ bruising ground game.
“Jack is coming along,” Curtin said about the Bulldogs’ 6-4 junior signal caller. “He’s gone a bit up and down, but he’s also faced two excellent defensive teams [St. Francis, Lemont]. Teams have been disguising their coverages well and blitzing us a lot.”
While the Bulldogs’ defense couldn’t derail the Indians, their effort was certainly spirited as Joe Urbanski, Brad Bednar and Mitch Malloy all tallied several tackles apiece. Sophomore running back Aldolfo Linares got some touches offensively, hopefully another emerging option amid the Bulldogs’ stable of backs, including Kevin Garvey, Justin Agne, Hank O’Neal and Urbanski.
“I told the players at halftime and the end of the game, experiences like this one will help us for down the line,” Curtin said. “Playing games against high level competition will breed confidence for future games. We’re battle tested against some of the top teams in the area. That’s what I want the guys to take out from these first two games, along with continuing to stay positive, work hard and prepare.”
Despite their 0-2 start and being outscored 99-12, the Bulldogs potentially can get on a winning track with three home games – Gary West Side, Rich East, Ridgewood – coming up on the schedule. For Curtin and the baptism by fire Bulldogs, Gary West Side is the sole focus.
“We have scouted and watched [Gary West Side] on film,” Curtin said. “It’s a solid football program. They have some good football players with quick strike ability. It’s not the same as playing a St. Francis or a Lemont, but we need to be ready to play well.”
The Bulldogs host Gary West Side on Friday at 7:30 p.m.