Considering the inordinate amount of injuries the Riverside-Brookfield High School football team has endured this season, it’s obvious head coach Brendan Curtin appreciates the attitude and production of his “do-it-all” senior Lewis Rogers. The Bulldogs’ wide receiver/defensive back returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, caught several passes, and had three interceptions to lead RBHS to a 42-7 win over Elmwood Park on Friday. By dominating the host Tigers, the Bulldogs notched their long-awaited first victory of the season.
“Lewis is like an iron man for us,” Curtin said. “He can stretch the field offensively and he does the little things at receiver, too, like taking pride in his blocking. He’s a big-time threat any time he gets the ball in his hands. Defensively, he’s transitioned to playing some cornerback and he gravitated to it like a natural. He’s got one gear and that’s fast.”
RBHS (1-6, 1-2 Metro Suburban Conference) started quickly across the board against the Tigers. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Swift (14-for-18, 187 yards passing) scored on a 6-yard run and Ben Brondos kicked the PAT to put RBHS up 7-0 at 8:29 of the first quarter. Three plays later, Rogers picked off a pass from Elmwood Park quarterback Paul Mika, setting the Bulldogs up at the Tigers’ 39. RBHS put together a 6-play, 39-yard scoring drive capped off by running back Justin Agne’s 2-yard push into the end zone for a Bulldogs’ 14-0 lead.
“We talked all week about setting the tone as soon as we got off the bus,” Curtin said. “It finally resonated with our players that we have to start fast and finish strong. I think they took those words to heart and it showed as we set the tone early in all three phases [of the game].”
The Tigers kept the score close briefly after Mika tossed a pass over the middle to tight end Brian Sama, who broke free from the RBHS defense for a 58-yard touchdown reception late in the first quarter making the score 14-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rogers raced down the left sideline for an 85-yard score to give RBHS a 21-7 lead with 39 seconds left in the opening quarter.
“I just wanted to come out and play my hardest,” Rogers said. “I have been battling some hip problems all year, but I came out [tonight] and my hips felt better. We’re not dwelling on the past other than to learn from it. Our focus is to try and go 1-0 every week. I just love playing football and I’ll do whatever I can to help our team. If coach [Curtin] asked me to play center, I’d do it.”
Rogers’ spectacular dash triggered a run of 28 unanswered points allowing the Bulldogs to control the rest of the game. Other touchdowns included a Swift-to-Kyle Tracy 23-yard pass, a 1-yard run by Agne, and a sweet 36-yard cutback scamper by promising sophomore running back Zach Witken to close out the scoring. Agne, who finished with 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries, had two other scoring runs called back on RBHS penalties. Antone Dixon led the receiving corps with five catches for 70 yards. Sophomore wideout Dean Zigulich chipped in three receptions for 30 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs’ turned in a stellar effort with solid contributions from Rogers, Witken, Mike Davis, Nick Cundari, Jordan Petronella, Gerrand Moody, and Richard Theus, among others. Petronella and Moody tallied a team-high five tackles apiece, while Theus had three tackles including one for loss.
The offensive line of Lou Grigoletti, Gabe Lopez, Zach Greenwell, Robert Castillo and John Maggos also turned in an excellent performance providing protection for Swift along with opening holes in the Bulldogs’ diverse ground game featuring multiple formations and running backs.
“It’s nice being a quarterback with all these weapons,” Swift said. “We have a lot of wide receivers who can make plays, plus the run game is phenomenal which helps. I’m happy we won this game; I think it will help prepare us for the next one.”
RBHS hosts Nazareth next Friday (Oct. 18) at 7:15 p.m.