Riverside Brookfield High School senior Dillon Coen has a different perspective this football season. The former starting defensive end now is the starting offensive left tackle.
“We worked through [the transition] in summer camp,” Coen said. “I’ve just developed so much more since then. I’m comfortable with the position now more than ever.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs’ offense regained the momentum for good during a 35-14 victory at winless Thornwood that clinched a playoff berth.
RBHS (6-2, 4-2 versus Southland Conference opponents) fell behind 8-7 in the second quarter after a failed punt gave the Thunderbirds the ball at the 12 yard line.
Following a 22-yard kickoff return by Jacob Retana, the Bulldogs staged a 14-play, 56-yard TD drive. Jack Grivetti scored from the 1 with 1:20 left till halftime.
The Bulldogs led 14-8 and the rest of the way.
“Whenever you get down the field on a long drive, it feels great to retake the lead,” Coen said. “The whole momentum switched and it felt great. [This game] was an absolute grind.”
Quarterback David Valencia passed for 65 yards and rushed for 52 and scored on 1- and 9-yard TDs, replacing injured starter Diego Gutierrez.
Luke Kumskis rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries after starter Muhammad Salem sprained his ankle during his 5-yard carry on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play.
“Everyone on offense across the board did a great job. The same thing with the defense,” RBHS coach Sam Styler said.
The Bulldogs pulled ahead 21-8 in the third quarter after Thornwood faked a punt on fourth-and-6 but Max Montalvo and Anthony Grossi thwarted the play for a 5-yard loss to the 27. Valencia then scored on a 9-yard run.
Thornwood returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a TD to close to 21-14. RBHS again answered with a 12-yard TD pass from Valencia to Tohma Tucker late in the third quarter.
Defensively, Eric Servin had a late-game sack. Max Strong, Jack Grivetti, Kaleb McCottry, Josh Gonzalez and Jakub Buksa contributed to other tackles for loss. Garrett Angshed, Grivetti and Gonzalez had interceptions. Gonzalez returned his pick 16 yards for a touchdown with 33.2 seconds left for the game’s final score. Niamh Larson converted all five extra points.
“I knew it was coming all day. I saw the slot receiver come out. I just jumped up, got it and ran away with it,” said Gonzalez, who first played Week 5 at Crete-Monee. “I’m just doing everything I can with all the time I have left.”
The Bulldogs said goodbye to the Metro Suburban Conference with their first title since they won four straight from 2006-09. RB won at Ridgewood after bad weather forced the meet to conclude Oct. 10.
Sophomore Soleil Kaciuba and junior Harriet Juister (No. 1 doubles) and juniors Eleanor Glennie and Eleanor Lenaghan (No. 2 doubles) were MSC champions. Freshman Paige Zavorski was second at No. 1 singles.
“I have enjoyed playing doubles with Soleil. It is really fun to work together through every point,” Juister said before conference. “My biggest highlight this season is probably the volley. I got a lot better at it. I [also] worked on the mental game of tennis.”
At the Class 2A Hinsdale Central Sectional Friday, Kaciuba and the doubles teams of Glennie/Lenaghan and senior Danielle DiMonte / sophomore Alekse Alijosius lost in the round of 16 and Juister lost in the play-in round. Kaciuba won her singles play-in match 6-0, 6-1.
The Bulldogs (9-10-1) are the No. 9 seed in the Proviso East Sectional and played No. 8 Jones in Tuesday’s Morton Regional semifinals. The winner most likely meets No. 1 Morton for the regional title at 6 p.m. Friday. The Mustangs beat RB 2-1, Sept. 6, on a last-minute goal. RB finished regular-season play with a 5-0 Senior Night victory over Kennedy Friday.
The Bulldogs finished 3-3 in the MSC by beating Westmont 2-1, Thursday. RB split their series with all three conference opponents.
RBHS lost 7-0 to No. 1-rated Oak Park and River Forest High on Oct. 11.