Riverside-Brookfield High School boys soccer coach Danny Makaric likes to test his players early with a challenging non-conference schedule. Moving from the Class 2A to 3A playoffs this season, it appears the Bulldogs will have their hands full at the back end of the season as well.

“I like to play big schools early so I can see what kind of team we have,” Makaric said. “Moving to 3A obviously makes it the playoffs more difficult, but hopefully we can go a little deeper into the playoffs this season.”

Last year, the Bulldogs lost 2-1 to Little Village in a 2A regional final.

RBHS started off this season impressively by edging host Oak Park and River Forest High School 2-1 on Aug. 25 as part of the Leyden Cup. Senior forward/midfielder Mikah Patil and junior midfielder Nathan Juarez each scored a goal against the Huskies.

RBHS (1-1-1) also tied Larkin 1-1 and lost to Leyden 2-1 in the round-robin tournament.

The Bulldogs believe their win over OPRF could serve as a springboard for success.

“This is the first time we have won a game at OPRF. We beat them last year, too, but we were lucky because they missed some chances,” Makaric said. “This year, Oak Park dominated the first 20 minutes of play. Once we settled down and realized we could play with them, the game changed.

“We are a very solid team technically. I think we’re still missing a little bit of that mental edge. We need to approach big games expecting to win. I think beating Oak Park will help our confidence.”

Continuity should also foster the Bulldogs’ development as the entire starting lineup is back this fall. Patil, who’s drawing recruiting interest from several Division III schools, leads the charge offensively.

“Danny always tells me to keep moving forward on the field,” said Patil, who scored 11 goals last season. “If I see an opening, he wants me to take it. With practice, I think we can be a pretty good team this year. We really worked on our team chemistry over the summer.”

While Patil will be a marked man by opposing defenses, the Bulldogs possess other scorers. Juarez already has two goals this season and fellow midfielders Eric Casillas, Dima Aieta, Collin Dreilich, Jacob Douglas and Jack Jurgens plus forward George McManus are also playmakers for the Bulldogs.

“Danny likes us to play short and sweet which means quick and precise passing,” Dreilich said. “It’s pleasing to the eye to play that style of soccer. What Mikah does with the ball is incredible, but our teamwork is really good overall.”

Defensively, seniors Fernando Barraza and Eduardo Martinez and junior Dimitri Vasiliadis anchor the unit while goalkeeper Jonathan Castro provides athleticism and toughness. Sophomore defender Charlie Tapia has shown promise.

“We’re pretty solid in the back,” Castro said. “As a senior, I’m just trying to be a leader and give the team confidence.”

The rest of the roster includes backup goalkeeper Matthew Pilewski, defenders Griffin Sventy, Cooper Lesniak, Joey Cannizzo, Jeremy Burton, Ike Jebb and Nick Bretze, midfielder Juan Quiroz and forward Luis Cardenas.

RBHS faces host West Aurora on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6:30 p.m.