For the second straight season, the Riverside-Brookfield and Gary West Side High School football teams lit up the scoreboard. On Friday, host Gary West Side rocked the Bulldogs 76-49 in an offensive shootout that comfortably surpassed their wild 2012 meeting. Last season, the Cougars edged RBHS 38-36 at Shuey Stadium.
The Bulldogs (0-3) certainly featured their share of stars offensively in Friday’s rematch against Gary West Side in Indiana. Junior running back Brian Kulaga scored five times (four rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown) and racked up 134 yards rushing and 70 yards receiving. Promising sophomore quarterback Ryan Swift went 13-for-28 for 178 yards and two touchdowns plus a rushing touchdown.
“Ryan did a nice job. He got six or seven reps against Lemont and took us down for a touchdown in that game,” RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said, “I was very pleased with Kulaga’s performance. We put him on offense [only] by design to take advantage of his quick strike capability.”
Senior wide receiver Lewis Rogers chipped in 71 yards receiving, highlighted by a 30-yard touchdown snag.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs battled the explosive Cougars considerably short-handed as starting quarterback Jack VandeMerkt left the game after three plays due a shoulder injury along with injuries to offensive starters Adolfo Linares (quad contusion) and Matt Chapp (fractured fibula, torn ligaments in one of his feet). While Chapp is likely out for the season, VandeMerkt and Linares are day-to-day.
By comparison, Gary West Side was running full-throttle led by Ohio State-bound wide receiver Lonnie Johnson, his cousin VonJea’ Johnson and quarterback Ramone Atkins. The Bulldogs struggled against the Cougars’ impressive speed and simply couldn’t keep them out the end zone.
“There’s nothing complicated about Gary West Side’s offense. They make quick throws in space and do what they do best, which is run for yardage,” Curtin said. “Obviously, they have great receivers with tremendous athleticism, but I think the linchpin is their quarterback [Atkins]. He plays with a lot of moxie and throws a nice ball.”
RBHS (0-3) visits Rich Central in another tough nonconference road game on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“Rich Central is off to a hot start,” Curtin said. “They have had a few shutouts defensively, and they are averaging about 40 points per game. We’ll have our hands full again. We need a good week of practice and then see how we respond.”
The Bulldogs still have their sights set on winning the Metro Suburban Conference this season, although in a scheduling oddity, only play four of nine regular season games within their league.