Keenan Scott won the battle to be Riverside-Brookfield’s starting quarterback, Hunter Hughes showed why the Bulldogs are fortunate to have a pair of highly capable signal callers.
Hughes made his varsity debut in dramatic fashion on Sept. 2, entering in the fourth quarter and completing 13 of 19 passes for 142 yards to lead the Bulldogs to three touchdowns and a 21-20 victory over Wauconda.
Since then, Hughes has cemented his status as the No. 1 quarterback, which allows Scott to focus just on playing middle linebacker during games.
Such a quarterback change, especially when it involves a junior replacing a senior, could be a problem for some teams, but the Bulldogs have made a seamless transition.
“We knew coming into the year it was going to be a battle and we knew that no matter who was on the field, we were going to fight for each other 100 percent of the time,” Hughes said. “(Scott) still gets his (practice) snaps.
“Me and him are always competing. We’re always looking to make each other better.”
The switch apparently has made the Bulldogs (3-1) a better team. RBHS coach Brendan Curtin hasn’t ruled out Scott getting under center again, but he likes the way things are going.
“It was a battle throughout the whole summer,” Curtin said. “They both do things exceptionally well.
“I just feel like we’re a better football team with Keenan Scott playing linebacker. That certainly plays into it because Keenan Scott is a great quarterback as well. He’s got a 70 percent completion percentage.
“I’m trying to do what’s best for the team and put the guys in the right spots and that’s why we decided to go with that decision. We knew that he’d contribute no matter how the season went down.”
Scott has been dominant at linebacker. On Friday night he helped RBHS hold Aurora Central Catholic, which came in averaging 32.7 points a game, to three touchdowns in a 21-20 Metro Suburban Conference crossover loss.
Meanwhile, Hughes nearly pulled off another improbable comeback. After being held to just 20 yards passing through three quarters and facing a 21-7 deficit, the 5-foot-10, 150-pound Hughes completed 10 of 14 passes for 122 yards, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Declan Lanam that pulled the Bulldogs within 21-20 with 2:38 remaining.
RBHS was going to kick the extra point, but the Chargers (4-0) jumped offsides, moving the ball to the 1 ½-yard line. Curtin elected to go for two, but Hughes was stopped just shy of the goal line.
“We knew we had it up the middle but things didn’t fall our way so we had to adjust mid-play and we just fell a little short,” Hughes said. “It’s all about the rebound. We have to come back next week and get the ‘W.'”
With a win and a near-miss under his belt, Hughes has confidence in himself and his teammates.
“I’ve always been comfortable,” Hughes said. “It’s more just knowing that I have the ability to do my job and the other 10 guys around me have that, too.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs are firmly behind Hughes.
“We all know that the transition from Keenan to Hunter wasn’t about Keenan’s bad play,” RBHS senior receiver Emmanuel Salther said. “It was because we wanted to mix it up a little bit, so Hunter did his thing, so he’s our quarterback.
“Keenan loves Hunter, we love Keenan, so everybody is good about the position.”
Salther caught four passes for 59 yards during the rally against Aurora Central, while Lanam had four catches for 40 yards. Zachary Mieczkowski added two receptions for 24 yards and Stefan Giminski a 17-yard grab as Hughes showed good rapport with his receiving corps.
“I love him,” Salther said. “He’s got really good accuracy and good poise. He’s very calm when it comes to pressure situations, as you could see.”
Curtin also likes what he sees from Hughes.
“He’s got great moxie, great poise,” Curtin said. “He’s always composed at critical moments throughout the course of the game.
“You want to somebody like that stepping in the huddle calling his plays. He’s not approaching it as a junior.”
Meanwhile, Scott has approached his new role in a mature fashion, thus quashing any possibility of a quarterback controversy. The 6-2, 195-pound senior is fresher now that he doesn’t have to play both ways.
“Keenan is an exceptionally mentally tough kid,” Curtin said. “He embodies everything that the sport represents in terms of it’s the ultimate team sport. He is the ultimate team player and he just wants us to come out on top on Friday nights.”
So does Hughes, who doesn’t mention physical skills when asked what he feels are his strengths.
“I just have confidence in all of my guys,” Hughes said. “It’s 100 percent a team effort and I know that they’re going to do their job and I know I have to do mine.
“We’re always looking to get better each week, day-by-day, and looking for a team ‘W’ every single day.”