Riverside-Brookfield High School football fans haven’t had much to cheer about this year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a reason to attend Friday night’s season finale against visiting Fenton (7:15 p.m.) at Shuey Stadium.
That will be the final chance to watch rising star Lewis Rogers play for the Bulldogs.
The 6-1, 180-pound senior has quietly excelled at wide receiver and cornerback even as the Bulldogs have gone 1-7. Rogers has 23 receptions for 325 yards and four touchdowns on offense and has recorded 33 tackles and six interceptions on defense.
“It’s going pretty good,” Rogers said. “I’m really proud of my team. Each week we’re improving. We just keep going out there each week and playing our hardest.”
Playing hard comes naturally to Rogers, who never takes a play off.
“Sometimes when you have a kid who is playing both ways and on special teams, he’ll favor one side of the ball, but that’s not the case with Lewis,” RBHS head coach Brendan Curtin said. “When he’s on the field he’s locked and loaded. He knows the importance of every play.”
Never was that more evident than during the Bulldogs’ 42-7 win over Elmwood Park two weeks ago. Rogers intercepted three passes and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
“So far it was my best game,” Rogers said. “We were all working with the coaches and I just did my job and then on those interceptions, the ball just fell into my hands.
“The kickoff return wasn’t me or anything I did. It was all the blockers working together making holes and the field just opened up for me.”
Rogers’ humility is genuine. He praises Curtin, who took over the program last year, and his assistants for his burgeoning football skills. He sat out last season with a broken wrist so is essentially learning on the job.
“My football knowledge improved tremendously under this coaching staff,” Rogers said. “Defensively, I’ve gotten better with reading the quarterback and what he’s going to do and then reading the receiver that’s coming into my zone, reading their body language and recognizing the formation.
“Offensively, I’ve been running crisper routes and winning each play against the defender across from me. It’s been great to learn so much. I know there’s still a lot to learn but I’m striving to improve.”
Indeed, Rogers figures to only get better in college, most likely at the Division III level. Elmhurst, Augustana and Coe are recruiting him.
“No doubt about it, his best football is ahead of him,” Curtin said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right [situation]. He’s a very driven, mature kid. We’re lucky to have him.”
Ironically, that drive will cause Rogers to forego football-based training this winter and focus on strengthening his explosiveness for track, which is his best sport and has drawn more college recruiters to his proverbial door.
Rogers is a two-time state qualifier in track. As a junior, he qualified in the 300-meter hurdles and 1,600 relay. He missed making the finals of the hurdles by less than a second.
“My main goal is to get a medal,” Rogers said. “Since I first went down there my sophomore year, I’ve been wanting a medal so bad. I’m just going to run my heart out come this spring.”
Then Rogers will turn his focus back to football. Curtin thinks Rogers could play both sports in college but that it isn’t likely.
“Part of me thinks he’s more of a football player than track athlete because he loves football,” Curtin said. “He enjoys doing what it takes to be a great football player.”
But there is one other reason Rogers enjoys football more than track.
“I love running but it’s individual,” Rogers said. “But in football, being with the team and building up that camaraderie all summer is great. You know if you and the guy next to you do your jobs, the team is going to be successful.”