It’s a sports cliché to cite Father Time as undefeated regarding athletes inevitabe declines due to aging. Mother Nature also proved to be a difficult challenge this weekend for both the Riverside-Brookfield and St. Francis High School football teams. After two postponements Friday and Saturday due to lightning and inclement weather, the Spartans finally notched a 35-9 win over the visiting Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon in a nonconference matchup.
“Obviously, it was mentally very challenging to come out [to Wheaton] three times over a span 36 hours but both teams had to deal with the circumstances,” RB head coach Brendan Curtin. “We talk all the time with our players about mental toughness regardless of any circumstances. I don’t think we did a good job handling that today.
“We had some costly turnovers and struggled. We know that we were a little inexperienced at some skill positions. Our three wide receivers and tight end basically had one varsity start between them coming into St. Francis.”
RB struggled to get on track offensively with four turnovers- two interceptions and two fumbles apiece.
Another major problem for the Bulldogs proved to be St. Francis running back James Butler. Butler, who sat out last season waiting to become eligible after transferring from Bartlett, made up for lost time with 183 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Butler scored on runs of 35 yards and one yard along with Steven Fassnacht’s 43-yard scoring run to stake the Spartans to a 21-0 halftime advantage.
RB (0-1) scored its first points of the game when Justin Agne busted through the line of scrimmage to block a Spartans punt in their end zone for a safety and 28-2 score. Butler responded with his final touchdown run on a 65-yard dash into the end zone.
RB senior quarterback Jack VandeMerkt connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Antone Dixon, pulling the Bulldogs closer at 28-9 with nine minutes left in the game. The Spartans’ T.J Jackson had a one-yard run, however, extending the St. Francis lead to 35-9 later in the final quarter and essentially shutting the door on any RB comeback bid.
“We’ll take a lot of positives out of this game,” Agne said. “I thought our defense help up pretty well against [St. Francis], but Butler did a good job of hitting the holes.”
RB running back Adolfo Linares finished with 50 yards on 11 carries and linebacker Jordan Petronella recorded four tackles including two for loss.
“Adolfo is pound-for-pound one of our toughest kids and a very selfless player,” Curtin said. “I also thought Justin Agne played well, doing a lot of the little things that may not show up in the stat book but are important.”
The Bulldogs return home this week to take on highly regarded Lemont Friday (7 p.m.). Plainfield South defeated the Indians 29-13 in Week 1 action.
“We’ve got a short week of preparation for Lemont and our backs are against the wall,” Curtin said. “This will be our only home game out of first five. Hopefully our home crowd gives us a boost, but we’re going to have to execute and play well regardless.”