The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team has compiled a 5-22 mark over the last three seasons, the first time they’ve had three consecutive losing seasons since a four-year string from 1978-81.
But RBHS head coach Brendan Curtin has put those struggles in the rear-view mirror.
“Our ambition is to go 1-0 every week,” Curtin said. “We’re not looking past anyone but we’re not going to look at the past. Last year is in the past.”
But it certainly was a wake-up call for the 11 starters who return this fall.
“I think the level of accountability has gone up,” Curtin said. “The kids certainly are approaching [the season] with enthusiasm. A lot of the kids in the off-season program have been going hard since December. I think it is going to show up on the field.”
The Bulldogs do have a leg up on some teams in that their quarterback situation is established. Junior Ryan Swift earned all-conference honors as a sophomore.
“It’s always a good thing to have your quarterback back and we’re going to have him back for next year, too,” Curtin said. “He’s pretty balanced. He’s capable both [running and passing].”
Swift has several experienced weapons at his disposal in running back Brian Kulaga, a threat to run or catch, and wide receivers Dean Zigulich, Matt Chapp and Antone Dixon. But the offensive line is green.
“We’re untested up front so we’ve got to be able to prove ourselves pretty quick,” Curtin said.
The Bulldogs open Friday at home against Morton, a Class 8A school with 8,000 students. But after that, RBHS faces mostly smaller schools in the newly expanded Metro Suburban Conference, which has split into two divisions.
The Bulldogs are in the Metro Suburban West along with Glenbard South, Fenton, Wheaton Academy, Immaculate Conception and Aurora Central Catholic. Only Glenbard South has a larger enrollment than RBHS, though that doesn’t guarantee success as four of those squads made the playoffs last season.
In all, RBHS faces six 2013 playoff teams, the same number as last season.
“It’s going to be a tough road but all we’re doing is preparing for Week 1,” Curtin said. “We’ve got some young kids but some good leaders.”
The defense, which was shredded for nearly 39 points per game last season, is still a question mark, though Curtin is high on junior David Pribyl-Pierdinock and Adolfo Linares.
Pribyl-Pierdinock moves over from outside linebacker while Linares, a three-year starter in the secondary, will focus mainly on playing safety after seeing time at running back last fall.
“We’re asking [Linares] to be the air traffic controller and he’s embraced that change,” Curtin said. “We’re excited to see what [Pribyl-Pierdinock] can do when the lights are on.”
The Bulldogs had the lights turned out on them early in most games last season, with all but one game decided by the end of the third quarter. Curtin anticipates that will change and fans will have reason to stick around until the end.
“One of our mottos is ‘Respect all, fear none’ because I believe we’re going to be in a lot of four-quarter games,” Curtin said. “We can’t be surprised if we find ourselves in the driver’s seat in the second half. We’re ready to take the next step.”
RBHS will do so in a new league that has just two familiar opponents – Glenbard South and Fenton. The other schools are all private institutions.
“It’s an opportunity to play in some different venues and play some teams we haven’t seen in the past,” Curtin said. “It will be interesting. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”