An all-purpose running and slot back, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Muhammad Salem contributed plenty in 2022, except a receiving touchdown.
That changed on the Bulldogs’ first possession in their season and home opener Aug. 25 against rival Morton.
Senior quarterback Diego Gutierrez rolled right, stopped, turned and fired a misdirection pass to a wide-open Salem on the opposite side of the field.
All Salem saw was daylight – and a 41-yard touchdown scamper.
“It felt good. But, really, it’s all of us that scored. The linemen blocking how they had to block. Everything went perfect on that play,” Salem said.
The Bulldogs enjoyed many offensive moments like that. They scored touchdowns on their first six possessions in a 42-13 victory.
Gutierrez was 13-for-16 passing for 215 yards and two more touchdowns to seniors Anthony Petrucci and Luke Kumskis for 13 and 43 yards, respectively, and had 5- and 3-yard rushing touchdowns. Gutierrez had 93 rushing yards before kneeling the final two plays to end at 80.
Salem, who had two rushing touchdowns in 2022, added a 5-yard scoring run on the opening drive of the second half for a 35-0 lead. Senior Niamh Larson converted all six extra points in her football debut.
“I wanted more than that [passing]. It’s like clockwork for me. We’ve been harping on the guys to find space and I thought we did a good job with that,” Gutierrez said. “It felt amazing to pounce on them this year.”
This was the Bulldogs’ third straight opening victory over Morton, but the first with breathing room. RBHS won 35-28 last season and 23-21 in 2021 on a last-second field goal.
“Our offense, our defense came out really strong,” second-year RBHS coach Sam Styler said. “Obviously, there’s still a few things that we have to clean up but for the first game of the season, pretty happy with it.”
Salem also rushed for 65 yards. Kumskis had six catches for 99 yards, concluding with his 43-yard touchdown reception with 3:55 left in the third quarter for a 42-7 advantage.
Leading the line were center Isaac Olivares, guards Manny Garcia-Rivera, Carter Shelby and Mason Myslinski and tackles Damian Nieves and Dillon Coen.
“We started out hot, something we’ve got to do more often than we did today,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve got to keep it up the whole season. If we do that, you’ll see us in state.”
Coen is a converted defensive lineman. Petrucci has returned to receiver after playing defense last season.
On the Bulldogs’ second drive, Petrucci caught the well-placed toss from Gutierrez near the back of the end zone and remained inbounds.
His touchdown catch as a sophomore against St. Edward was nearly a carbon copy.
“It was in the middle of the end zone on the same side. I caught it over my head and then I got back in the back,” Petrucci said. “It felt amazing to get that touchdown.”
Senior linebacker Jack Grivetti had a first-quarter tackle for loss, stopped quarterback Devon Hall just shy of a first down on his fourth-and-5 run and recovered a fumble at the Bulldogs’ 28 on the next possession.
“We started out a little slow [on defense] in the summer but we came into our own, we really came around and I think we proved it tonight,” Grivetti said.
Morton drove 49 yards on its first second-half possession to score with help from two RBHS 15-yard penalties. The Mustangs scored again with 3:33 to go.