Like most football coaches Riverside-Brookfield High School varsity head coach Sam Styler preaches the importance of a fast start.
On Friday, the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns before winless opponent Thornridge even ran an offensive play. They then raced to a 27-0 first-quarter lead en route to an easy 40-14 Senior Night victory in their last regular-season home game at the Martin Kennelly Athletic Complex.
Senior David Valencia celebrated Senior Night by running for two touchdowns and throwing for another and classmate Luke Kumskis scored twice. The Bulldogs (5-2, 3-2 in Southland Conference) became playoff eligible and can clinch a third straight postseason berth Friday with a victory at winless Thornwood (0-7, 0-5).
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and needed only six plays to score their first touchdown, an 8-yard run by Kumskis. Then they surprised Thornridge (0-7, 0-5) with an onside kick that the Bulldogs’ Josh Gonzalez recovered.
“We just saw the opening and decided to go for it,” Styler said.
The Bulldogs scored again just four plays later when quarterback Diego Gutierrez connected with James Espino for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs tried a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff and senior John Super snagged it for another offensive possession. Only four plays later, the Bulldogs reached the end zone again as Valencia scored on an 11-yard run for a 20-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
After holding Thornridge to a three and out, senior Anthony Petrucci returned a punt 44 yards for another touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 27-0 less than eight minutes into the game.
Gutierrez injured his right ankle when he was sacked in the first quarter and did not return after his touchdown pass. He had his ankle taped and spent the second half out of pads. He was limping noticeably after the game with what appeared to be a sprain.
“I was trying to play through it, but I just couldn’t,” Gutierrez said.
Valencia replaced Gutierrez at quarterback in the second quarter. On his second and last pass of the game, Valencia hit Kumskis on a swing pass and Kumskis raced down the left sideline and then cut back for a 77-yard touchdown to up RB’s lead to 34-0 just 81 seconds into the second quarter.
“He’s my boy, I trust him with everything,” Valencia said of Kumskis.
Valencia, who played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore, but moved to running back last year and has played running back and linebacker this year, said he felt a little rusty at quarterback.
Valencia completed the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left in the second quarter and the Bulldogs led 40-0 at the half.
The second half was played with a running clock and Thornridge scored two touchdowns against RB reserves in the fourth quarter. Petrucci and sophomore Diego Pinedo played quarterback for the Bulldogs.
In the second quarter, a Thornridge player was injured after a violent collision tackling speedy Muhammad Salem after a long run. The Thornridge player could not get up but was conscious and breathing normally. The game was delayed for approximately 15 minutes while the Thornridge player was attended to and ultimately taken by stretcher to Loyola Hospital. His condition is not known.