If all goes according to plan, the Riverside-Brookfield High School football team will make its debut in their new stadium, the Kennelly Athletic Complex, about midway through the 2015 regular season.
“I was told the stadium will be ready October 2nd with the possibility of it being ready September 25th,” RBHS head coach Brendan Curtin said. “Regardless, we’re on the road the first two weeks of the season and then we play St. Edward at Lyons Township [on Sept. 12].
“I’m not really big on neutral site games for the upcoming season. The only game I want to play at Morton is against Morton,” Curtin added. “I’d rather stockpile home games for 2016 than lose a home game at a neutral site this season. We haven’t had that many home games the three years I’ve been at RB.”
While the future looks promising for the Bulldogs, fresh off their 6-4 campaign and playoff berth plus a new stadium on the way, the program has been decidedly nomadic this summer.
“It’s certainly been challenging,” Curtin said. “Every day I go into the office around 11 a.m. or noon, we really don’t know where we are going to practice until about 1 p.m. We’ve been practicing either behind the school on the baseball and softball fields or we hop on a bus and practice in North Riverside. The kids have adjusted well and done a good job with it.”
In addition to multiple sites for practice, the Bulldogs have participated in 7-on-7 games at Ridgewood, Willowbrook and Naperville North High Schools. They have also competed in linemen competitions, most notably at Wheaton-Warrenville South’s Red Grange tournament.
“There’s certainly been a lot of activity and highlights this summer,” Curtin said. “The 7-on-7s have helped our continuity and development. We knew our linemen would have the odds stacked against them at Wheaton South because they were going up against some very prolific, big Class 8A programs. I think it was a beneficial experience though, especially for our younger guys.
“When our players see the approach of some of the bigger programs, it brings up some questions. We know our players work hard, but are they working hard enough year-round to position ourselves like the highly successful programs do? We’re getting there, but I think it was a bit of an eye opener for some of our younger players to face such great competition.”
In terms of out-of-state competition, RBHS benefitted from taking part in Tony Romo’s Border Battle football camp held in late June in Wisconsin. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback welcomed 16 high school teams (eight apiece from Wisconsin and Illinois) to compete in four pools of play at his alma mater Burlington High School in Wisconsin.
RBHS advanced to the championship game, losing 22-21 to Niles North on the game’s final play. Nevertheless, the experience culminated the Bulldogs’ interesting summer on the road.
“The kids loved it,” Curtin said about Romo’s annual camp. “There wasn’t any cost involved, so it’s an idea I ran by our coaches. We figured we’re on the road quite a bit this summer anyway, so let’s give it a shot.”
Aside from winning four of five games, the RBHS players enjoyed Romo’s speech about his football journey from high school through college to the NFL.
“Romo talked to the guys about identifying opportunity,” Curtin said. “Tony was an average athlete coming out of high school. When he attended Eastern Illinois University, he wasn’t really living a football life in the sense it was just a hobby for him. The coaches wanted to move him to tight end, but he asked them to give him one more year at quarterback. If it didn’t work out, he would make the move. From that moment, he really applied himself and polished his craft. Now, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.”
RBHS wraps up summer workouts this week. The team will reconvene on Aug. 10 for preseason camp. The season kicks off Friday, Aug. 28 at Morton at 7:30 p.m.
With quarterback Ryan Swift, wide receiver Dean Zigulich and linebacker David Pribyl-Pierdinock in the fold, plus several other returning starters, the Bulldogs should be competitive, particularly in the Metro Suburban Conference, where the team finished 4-1 last season.
“Dean had a phenomenal day at Romo’s camp,” Curtin said. “Swift and Zigulich have developed some nice chemistry so we expect big things out of those guys. Pribyl-Pierdinock has had a great summer as well. Overall, we have a nice core group of guys that will be three-year starters so it’s a nice nucleus.”