While Nazareth football dominated like no other high school team in the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark coverage area, plenty of Riverside-Brookfield, Lyons Township, Fenwick (and even a few St. Ignatius athletes) contributed compelling narratives in 2014. Here’s a look back at the teams, players and moments that shaped a remarkable year in sports.

Roadrunners roll to football state title

Nazareth defeated Lemont 26-7 in the championship game of the Class 6A football playoffs to notch the school’s first state title in any sport. Quarterback Jonah Beauduy, running backs Nolan Dean and Julian Love and an incredible offensive line (which averaged 6-3, 285 pounds) scored seemingly at will all season for the Roadrunners (14-0).

“I’m very happy for the great kids on our team and the coaching staff,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. “They are a selfless group that really worked hard to win a state championship.”

Bulldogs make history in the pool

Quinn Risley finished fifth in the 50-yard freestyle and swam the opening leg of the Bulldogs’ 200 free relay which finished 11th at the boys swimming state finals during the spring. Risley, an Iowa recruit, became just the 11th swimmer in school history to win an individual medal and the sixth to win two medals in the same year.

RBHS also performed well in the team standings with 14 points to finish 27th at the state finals. The 200 free relay team of Risley, Christian Hernandez, Anthony Colon and Tim Somers finished 11th in the state with a time of 1 minutes, 27.01 seconds. RBHS broke eight school records and won its first sectional by defeating host Fenwick.

The Bulldogs are off to another strong start this season with a second-place showing at the Downers Grove South Invite (Dec. 20) and a third-place result at the Maine East Relays (Dec. 6).

“The bar is definitely set higher and they’re the ones setting it,” RBHS coach Todd Fridrych said. “[Risley] has some lofty goals and we’ll see whether he will fulfill them. He should be in the hunt for the 50 free [state title].”

Lions repeat as gymnastics champs

LTHS won the girls gymnastics state finals for the second straight year, finishing with a score of 151.275, ahead of runner-up Prairie Ridge Co-op (148.85).

The Lions’ Michelle Cozza earned a share of the state title on bars with Barrington’s Abby Hasanov (both scored 9.5). Cozza’s teammate, Kelsy Kurfirst, repeated as the floor exercise state champ by posting a score of 9.675. Senior Katie Carling and Kurfirst paced LTHS with four medals each.

Riverside runners spark St. Ignatius, Fenwick

Chris Korabik and Conor Dunham, a pair of St. Ignatius seniors from Riverside, powered the Wolfpack to a seventh-place finish in the team standings of the Class 3A boys track and field state finals.

Dunham won the state title in the 300-meter hurdles (36.90) and earned fifth place in the 110 hurdles (14.49). Korabik, now a member of the DePaul track team, took second in the 1,600 meters, clocking a time of 4:11.20, trailing only state champion Patrick Perrier of O’Fallon (4:10.34).

“I was really hoping to win the state title but I was pleased with my race, a personal record by three seconds,” Korabik said. “I think competing in the state finals in past years really helped me remain focused and calm this time.”

Fenwick also benefitted from the contributions of a Riverside running star at the state finals. Sal Flight placed fourth in the 1,600 (4:22.88) in Class 2A.

Winning streak powers RBHS football 

The Bulldogs turned the football program around with a 6-4 record, highlighted by a five-game winning streak and playoff appearance under coach Brendan Curtin.

“I think the kids did a good job of taking it one day at a time, one challenge at a time,” Curtin said. “If you put little victories together, good things happen.”

After a 1-2 start, RBHS reeled off five straight victories outscoring their opponents 202-68.

Matt Chapp flourished as the team’s top running back, slot receiver and returner. He rushed for 752 yards and eight touchdowns on 99 carries, had 29 catches for 363 yards and six touchdowns plus 577 total yards on 18 returns (kickoffs/punts) for four more scores. 

Quarterback Ryan Swift (1,248 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes) ran the offense well, which featured other weapons like running back Brian Kulaga, tight end Kyle Tracy, wide receivers Dean Zigulich and Antone Dixon, plus a solid offensive line anchored by tackle Louis Grigoletti. Nick Fucinato made 6 of 8 field goals and 32 of 34 PATs. David Pribyl-Pierdinock, Jordan Petronella, Mike McCabe, Dan Magee and Adolfo Linares led the defense.

RBHS girls hoops maintains success

The Bulldogs routed Reavis 83-50 to win their RB Holiday Classic Tournament on Saturday (Dec. 27). Earlier this season, RBHS won five games en route to the Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Tournament title. At 16-2, the Bulldogs haven’t skipped a beat from last season’s squad, which finished 25-7 and included freshmen starters in guards Samantha Bloom, Lyndsey Hoyd and 6-7 center Dana Rettke.

That terrific trio of players is back this season, along with senior forward Janae Dabney, senior guards Miranda Chavez and Renee Kunkel and junior Jessica Jno Baptiste.

Hickey emerges as LTHS ace

About halfway through the regular season last spring, the LTHS baseball team was slightly above .500 hampered by injuries and inconsistent play. Then, the Lions caught fire by winning 17 games in a row, including a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title and a regional final victory over archrival Oak Park and River Forest.

The emergence of pitcher Tom Hickey, from Brookfield, surfaced as one of the Lions’ most compelling stories this season. After losing his first decision in a relief role, Hickey became a star, finishing with a 7-1 record and 0.89 earned-run average.

“He had a pretty special year,” LTHS coach George Ushela said. “As he gets stronger and continues to gain experience, Tom will be even better next year.”

Bulldogs continue conference dominance

Notching wins over Lane Tech [71-60], host York [64-48] and St. Ignatius [68-60], the Bulldogs (12-0) have advanced to the semifinals of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament. Senior forward Sam Johnson had 17 points and 12 rebounds against York, while he shared top scoring honors with Jalen Clanton at 21 points apiece against Lane Tech. 

The Bulldogs face DePaul Prep in the Tosh tourney semifinals on Dec. 30 (past deadline).

“The start to our season has been a big confidence boost for us,” RBHS center Mark Smith said. “We’ve got a nice little streak going, and I don’t see why is has to end any time soon.”

RBHS went 21-7 highlighted by a 12-0 record in the Metro Suburban Conference en route to their 13th straight league championship last season.

Lin wins back-to-back badminton titles

LTHS badminton player Stephanie Lin retained her state singles championship during the spring when she knocked off Hinsdale South freshman Judy Yang 22-20, 21-13 in the title match at Eastern Illinois University. Lin is the eighth girl to win two state singles titles.

Lions’ Haugen leaps to state title

After taking second in the state in the high jump in 2013, the Lions’ Emma Haugen recorded a jump of 5 feet, 7 inches to win the state championship in the high jump of the Class 3A state meet. She also earned seventh place in the triple jump (36-8.75) as LTHS scored 17 points to finish 14th in the team standings.

RBHS baseball crushes Clemente 

The Bulldogs won 23 games, none more significant than their 9-1 victory over Clemente in a regional final. All-State pitcher Will Kincanon threw a complete game three-hitter with seven strikeouts. Along with Kincanon’s three hits, Brian Kulaga (2-for-3, four RBIs) and Xander Catrambone (2-for-3, two RBIs) paced the offense.

Kincanon (9-3, 0.91 ERA), now at Middle Tennessee State,  finished his stellar career at RBHS with 320 strikeouts, 27 wins, an ERA under 1.20, five school records and a reputation as arguably the greatest pitcher in school history. He also hit .486 batting average, three home runs, 13 doubles and 29 RBIs and 16 stolen bases during his senior year.

“In terms of results and accomplishments, I think we overachieved this year,” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “We had a good group of hard working kids and whenever you have a pitcher like Will Kincanon, you feel like you have a shot to win any game.”

Cortes makes mark on mat

Lilly Cortes became the first girl in RBHS history to win a varsity wrestling match. Just three months after transferring to RBHS from Morton West, Cortes earned the starting spot at 106 pounds and quickly proved her value with multiple victories.

“After I got my first win I proved to everybody that I deserved to be [in the lineup],” Cortes said. “I’m not just this girl that’s around guys. I have a purpose here.”

Cortes, a senior captain this season, has inspired three more girls to join the RBHS program.

“Lilly is going from being a game changer to a trend setter,” RBHS coach Mike Boyd said.

Led by John Szydlo, Antonio Ochoa, Nick Giurini and Cortes, the Bulldogs are 7-2. Shannon Hickey and freshman standout Joey Giurini have also been key contributors.

Fenwick baseball wins sectional

Trailing Montini early in the Glenbard South Sectional final, Fenwick rallied with six unanswered runs to claim a 6-2 win over the Broncos. Fenwick knocked off higher seeded squads in Benet, Nazareth and Montini en route to its first sectional title in program history.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Fenwick coach Dave Hogan said. “Everybody starts the same in the spring tournament and then you just hope to keep playing. We’re having fun.”

In the supersectional, Grayslake Central edged Fenwick 2-1. The Friars finished 25-11 in their finest season in school history.

RBHS boys track and field team excels

The RBHS boys track and field varsity team closed out another stellar regular season by winning the Metro Suburban Conference championship for the second straight year. In fact, the RBHS varsity and frosh/soph squads earned a clean sweep of league titles in dominant fashion with 23 personal records and 29 all-conference performances. RBHS also claimed first place at its own Gary Johnson Bulldog Relays and the T.F. South Invitational.

In the postseason, RBHS finished second with 76 points behind sectional champion, LTHS (104 points) at the St. Rita Sectional in Class 3A action. State qualifiers included the Bulldogs’ 1600-meter relay with a time of 3:27.06, Dan Curtin in the 1600 (4:29.21), Lou Grigoletti in the discus throw (143-04) and Lewis Rogers and Gerrand Moody in both the 300 intermediate and 110 high hurdles

RBHS sweeps cross country regionals

The RBHS boys team scored 29 points to win its own regional in convincing fashion. The Bulldogs placed five runners inside the top 10, led by senior Wayne Morrelly’s third-place finish at 16:46. Sophomore Matt Armenta was fourth with a time of 16:49, while Andrew LeMesurier (6th/16:58), Matt Sagan (7th/17:17) and Matt Zamudio (9th/17:28) also recorded solid runs.

Freshman Hailey Jurgens and senior Deanna Keen finished first and second, respectively, with times of 19:45 and 21:03 to lead the RBHS girls team to their regional crown. Meaghan Dorsey (5th/21:29), Leanna Keen (6th/:21.35), Natalie Cote (10th/22:10) also ran well for the Bulldogs.

Fenwick football reaches 7A quarters

The Friars’ bid for a state championship in the Class 7A playoffs ended with a 28-10 loss to Libertyville in the quarterfinals. The Elite 8 appearance marked the fourth time in school history that Fenwick (7-5) had advanced that far in the playoffs.

 – Matt Le Cren and Lauren Recchia contributed to this story.