Big plays were the difference as Sam Styler’s first year as Riverside-Brookfield varsity football coach came to an end Oct. 28 as host Kaneland defeated the Bulldogs 35-14 in a first-round IHSA Class 6A playoff game in Maple Park.
No. 7-seeded Kaneland (7-3) erupted for 28 points in the third quarter, including three touchdowns the final 4:15, to snap a 14-14 tie.
Kaneland quarterback Troyer Carlson hit Dylan Sanagustin on a 40-yard touchdown pass with 4:15 left the in the third quarter to give Kaneland a 21-14 lead. After a three and out by RBHS, Kaneland quickly struck again just 62 seconds later when Johnny Spallasso took a screen pass 61 yards for a touchdown.
A high snap to punter Iggy Bielobradek led to a blocked punt and Carlson hit receiver Dom DeBlassio for 27-yard touchdown pass with 21.2 seconds left in the third quarter for the final margin.
“We knew they had a good deep game,” Styler said after the game. “We had plenty of reps this week, but it’s tough to replicate their speed in practice.”
RBHS (6-4) played even with Kaneland for most of the game. After Carlson scored on an 8-yard run to give Kaneland a 7-0 lead with 11:24 left in the second quarter, the No. 10-seeded Bulldogs tied the game with a clever play call.
Quarterback Diego Gutierrez rolled right and then threw back across to the field to tight end Luke Kumskis, who raced down the left sideline for 42-yard touchdown to tie the game with 4:02 left in the first half. Kumskis caught three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown and ran the ball three times for 10 yards.
Styler ordered an onside kick to start the second half and RBHS nearly recovered it, but Kaneland’s Austin Goglin managed to secure the ball. It took Kaneland just four plays to take the lead as running back Tyler Bradshaw scored on a 23-yard run to put the Knights ahead 14-7.
But the Bulldogs battled back and put together their best drive of the game, marching 66 yards in eight plays and tying the game when Gutierrez hit junior Tohma Tucker for an 8-yard touchdown pass over the middle on fourth and 3. Gutierrez had opened the drive with a 22-yard pass to Kumskis.
The Bulldogs struggled to run the ball the entire game, gaining just 55 yards. Gutierrez completed 13 of 22 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
Styler’s first season as head varsity coach was special because he coached this year’s seniors when they were freshman playing freshman football.
“I’m extremely blessed I had this great group to coach,” Styler said.
The senior class, led by running back/linebacker Ryan Novak and outside linebacker Drew Swiatek, was tough and gritty. Wide receiver, kicker Bielobradek, offensive linemen David Hernandez, Joe Midona, Philly Vazzana, linebacker Marques Turner, defensive back Nate Padilla and defensive lineman Gio Gonzalez will be missed.
Kumskis, a 6-3, 215-pound junior tight end/H back, emerged as a star this season. He and Jackson Ramos, a 6-3, 300-pound offensive guard, likely will be RBHS’s first Division I recruits in a long time next year.
Gutierrez will also return as will junior David Valencia, who split time as running back with Novak this season. Speedy wide receiver and kick returner Muhammed Salem, who Kaneland kicked away from all night, will also be back and should be a major threat next year.
Dillon Coen emerged this year as an impact player at defensive end. Wide receiver Anthony Petrucci, linebacker Jack Grivetti, and 325-pound offensive guard Manny Garcia-Rivera will also be returning starters.