The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team’s bid to win the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division title took a hit courtesy of burgeoning nemesis Immaculate Conception.
The Knights wore down the Bulldogs en route to a 45-14 Friday night in Elmhurst. With the loss, RBHS (4-2) falls to 1-1 in the Metro Suburban Blue, while IC (6-0) and Glenbard South (4-2) led the league with a 2-0 record.
Last season, IC spoiled the Bulldogs’ Homecoming and debut of the Martin H. Kennelly Athletic Complex with a 15-7 win over RBHS.
Despite the lopsided final score, RBHS battled IC to a draw for most of the first half. Junior quarterback Hunter Hughes threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Nicolas Del Nodal to tie the game at 14-14 with 1:08 remaining until halftime.
IC quarterback Luke Ricobene connected with senior wide receiver Matt Sutton on a 20-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the second quarter to give the Knights the lead for good at 21-14.
The Bulldogs scored first when Del Nodal broke free for a 75-yard TD run on the team’s first play from scrimmage.
“Our (offensive) line really picked it up,” Del Nodal said. “We practiced all week on really holding the edge and that’s what they did tonight. I just saw a hole and I took it.
“The key is to continue working together. And just to keep playing hard and fast.”
Del Nodal rushed for 94 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown against the Knights’ stingy defense, while Hughes finished 17-for-23 on passing attempts with 116 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Junior wide receiver Stefan Giminski had five receptions for 56 yards. Senior wide receiver Ja’Mari Wise chipped in with two catches for 17 yards.
The Knights pulled away in the second half with 24 unanswered points.
Ricobene tossed a screen pass to highly touted running back Jordan Rowell who turned it into a 64-yard TD, extending the IC advantage to 28-14 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
“We got off to a fast start but we were a bit outsized in the trenches,” RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said. “Anytime you’re giving up some considerable size disadvantages up front, you have to be creative with what you’re doing.
“(IC) is a great football team, hats off to them. They have a lot of good football players and they’re doing the right things with those guys. Games like this do make us a better football team, but it’s going to take some time.”
The Bulldogs were successful in stopping Rowell on the ground throughout the game, holding him to just 18 yards rushing in the first half.
RBHS, which won nine games and advanced to a state quarterfinal in 2015, remains in the thick of conference contention and on track for a postseason berth.
“Heading into the final third of the season, I think we need to take some time and reflect on what it is we need to do better in terms of putting together a full 48 minutes,” Curtin said. “We’ve shown glimpses that we can play really good football throughout the course of the game in all phases. We’re still searching though for that game where we get it done on all three phases for all 48 minutes.”