Riverside-Brookfield tight end Christian Verdin hauls in one of his five catches against Lemont in Week 2 action. (David Pierini/Staff Photographer)

Riverside-Brookfield tight end Christian Verdin is more than ready to make an impact for the Bulldogs this season.

The talented 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior is back in action for the Bulldogs after missing almost all of the last season with an injury. Verdin tore a ligament in one of his ankles and also suffered a broken fibula in last year’s season opener against St. Francis. After a long and arduous offseason of rehab, including two months of physical therapy and two surgeries, the persistent Verdin is thankful to be back with his teammates and intent on helping the Bulldogs win any way that he can.

“It feels good,” he said of his highly anticipated return. “I’m just excited to be back and playing for my team.”

Two games into the season, Verdin has already established himself as invaluable offensive weapon for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound tight end had 74 yards on five catches in Friday’s 44-20 loss to visiting Lemont.

RB head coach Brendan Curtin sensed Verdin could be a special player even during the lanky tight end’s limited action last season, as he racked up 50 yards on four catches in the first half against St. Francis before his injury occurred.

“Christian made an impact in that game, and really knew what he was doing,” Curtin said. “We really look forward to seeing what he can do this year now that he’s healthy.”

It was extremely frustrating for Verdin to watch the Bulldogs from the sidelines last season.

“It was really tough because I’ve never been injured before,” he said. “I’ve never had to miss time from anything until that injury.”

Opening with games against St. Francis and Lemont this season, the Bulldogs have shown signs of progress and certainly plenty of fight. Despite the team’s 0-2 start, Curtin knows that having the dedicated Verdin back in the fold can only help the Bulldogs’ bid for continued development as the season moves along.

“When I think of Christian Verdin, I think of someone who just puts in so much time and knows what he wants,” said Curtin. “He works very hard and he’s a very driven football player who is a dual-threat tight end. When he’s playing his best football, he can hang with the big blockers, defensive ends and outside linebackers.”

Verdin’s versatility and experience are welcomed resources for the Bulldogs, who boast a very talented and speedy corps of wide receivers including Lewis Rogers, Matt Chapp, Mike McCabe, Antone Dixon and Mike Davis. The flip side for the Bulldogs’ wideouts is that they lack varsity experience and struggled in the season opener against St. Francis. The return of Verdin helps stabilize the RB passing game.

“Christian’s got soft hands so he’s a threat,” Curtin said. “He stretches the field for us. He’s going to be a guy that we lean on in the weeks to come, and I’m very pleased with his progress.”

In terms of personal goals, the selfless Verdin keeps it simple truly just wanting the best for his team. The Bulldogs travel to Gary, Indiana to take on West Side High School Friday (7 p.m. kickoff). Last year, the Cougars edged RB 38-36 in a thriller at Shuey Stadium.

“I just want to get that first W,” Verdin said. “From there, I’m hoping for a [Metro Suburban] conference championship.”

BULLDOGS BOX

Lemont 44, Riverside-Brookfield 20

RB raced out a 14-0 lead on before visiting Lemont responded with 44 unanswered points to spoil the Bulldogs’ Senior Night.

RB scoring plays:

Jack VandeMerkt 26-yard pass to Matt Chapp, Ben Brondos PAT at 9:49 of first quarter, RB 7, Lemont 0

VandeMerkt 14-yard pass to Lewis Rogers, Brondos PAT at 5:31 of first quarter, RB 14, Lemont 0

Ryan Swift 25-yard pass to Rogers, at 5:14 of fourth quarter, Lemont 44, RB 20

RB statistical leaders:

VandeMerkt, 10-for-23, 152 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions

Rogers, three catches for 46 yards and two touchdowns

Brian Kulaga, seven carries, 44 yards

Curtin quote: “People have this perception that it’s a down year for Lemont, but they are still a powerhouse team. I was pleased with the way we came out of the gates and our ability to execute the no-huddle offense, and that the defense was making plays.”

Next game: RB (0-2) at Gary West Side, Friday (7 p.m.)