The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team scored 26 unanswered points en route to a 40-28 win over visiting Aurora Central Catholic on Friday.
The victory proved significant on several fronts for the Bulldogs. RBHS (6-2, 4-0 Metro Suburban West) extended its winning streak to five games, ensured a postseason appearance, set up a showdown against Glenbard South (6-2, 4-0) on Friday, Oct. 24 in Glen Ellyn, and closed out the last regular season game at Shuey Stadium in style.
“At times, we struggled in each sector of the game and then other times we did a great job,” RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said. “Overall, our players did a great job and I’m just so proud and happy for them. It’s so neat to see our student body, faculty and staff and community come out and support RBHS football. I think it starts with our players because they know that they’re part of something special.”
After RBHS and ACC battled to a 14-14 tie at halftime, the Bulldogs turned in a terrific third-quarter performance to create ample breathing room.
“At halftime, we told our kids that they were prepared to play this game,” Curtin said. “When you prepare well, you should play with confidence. We took their best shot and played better football in the second half.”
After taking a pitch from RBHS quarterback Ryan Swift, senior running back Matt Chapp lofted a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dean Zigulich, which put the Bulldogs ahead for good, at 21-14 with 9:15 left in the third quarter. On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Brian Kulaga capped off an 8-play, 58-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to extend the RBHS lead to 27-14 at 3:18 of the third quarter. Six plays later, RBHS cornerback Eashaun Banks intercepted a pass from ACC quarterback Matt Rahn and returned it 29 yards to the Chargers’ 8.
“On that play, I was just worried about getting beat deep,” Banks said. “[RBHS safety] Adolfo [Linares] was beaten deep the previous series so I told him I had his back. Everybody on our defense rallies to the ball on every play.”
After Banks’ timely pick, Swift threw an 8-yard strike to Zigulich who sidestepped one defender into the end zone for a 33-14 RBHS advantage with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Kulaga tacked on a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to close out the Bulldogs’ scoring with a 40-14 lead.
The Chargers scored a pair of touchdowns over the final five minutes of the game on Rahn’s 31-yard pass to Colin Baillie. Baillie, who took over for Rahn under center during the Chargers’ final series, tossed a 28-yard pass into the end zone which was caught by 6-7, 230-pound tight end Mario May to make the game appear respectable at 40-28. In reality, the Bulldogs blew away ACC with a strong third-quarter showing.
RBHS scored first on a Swift screen pass to Chapp who raced into the end zone from 30 yards out with 5:08 left in the first quarter. Chapp struck again on the second play of the second quarter when he burst through the line of scrimmage for a 67-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field, extending the RBHS lead to 14-0.
“We had such a good week of practice,” Chapp said. “We knew it would take a team effort. It was amazing to see everybody out there working together. It’s a very satisfying win.”
The Chargers responded with a pair of touchdowns, highlighted by Rahn’s roll out pass to a leaping Brandon Babler who hauled down the catch over an RBHS defender tying the score at 14-14 with 8.3 seconds left until halftime.
RBHS visits Glenbard South on Friday, Oct. 24 with the conference title at stake. Kickoff is 7:15 p.m.
“I’m not going to make any predictions but we’re preparing the right way,” Chapp said. “I know it’s going to be a pretty intense game.”
Added Banks: “Our game against Glenbard South is going to be a dogfight. It’s nice that we’ve qualified for the second season, but we’re just taking it one game at a time.”