It was déjà vu all over again for the Riverside Brookfield High School football team Friday night as Kaneland handed the Bulldogs a first round playoff loss for the second straight year, in a 56-20 rout, as the Bulldogs hosted their first playoff game since 2017.
Kaneland (7-3) was too big and too strong for RBHS (7-3). The Knights overpowered the Bulldogs on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and scored touchdowns on their first five possessions of the game. They rushed for 271 yards with 220-pound running back Josh Mauthe gaining 133 yards on 18 carries, (101 yards on 12 carries in the first quarter alone) before exiting the game for good with an injury late in the second quarter.
“They were running the ball down our throats and we just didn’t step up and make the plays when we needed to,” said RBHS head coach Sam Styler.
The Knights drove 95 yards on 10 plays to take a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Dominick DeBlasio (12 carries, 95 yards, five touchdowns) scored on a 3-yard run.
That’s when the Bulldogs finally got their offense going. They responded with a 16-play, 76-yard scoring drive. On fourth and goal from the 15 yard line, quarterback Diego Gutierrez connected with David Valencia just short of the goal line and Valencia bulled his way into the end zone to put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with 2:43 left in the first half.
But Kaneland wasn’t content to sit on its lead and scored again with just 49 seconds left in the half when quarterback Troyer Carlson connected with DeBlasio for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give the Knights a 28-7 halftime lead.
When Kaneland’s Aric Johnson returned the second half kickoff 85 yards for another touchdown, the rout was on. The Knights extended their lead to 42-7 before the Bulldogs could score again.
Gutierrez found the endzone on a nifty 36-yard scramble with 5:09 left in the third quarter. Gutierrez (13 carries for 80 yards, 10 of 27 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions), who was under pressure all night, scrambled to his left, raced down the sideline and then cut back for the score.
Late in the third quarter, Gutierrez was sacked and reinjured his recently sprained right ankle. After sitting out two series and having his injury looked at, the senior quarterback returned to the game and, despite noticeably limping, led the Bulldogs to their final score as Valencia (14 carries for 47 yards) scored his second touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run with 4:48 left.
“There was nothing to lose,” Gutierrez said of his decision to return to action after reinjuring his ankle. “Got a touchdown out of it so I’m proud of that.”
Gutierrez has started at quarterback for the last two seasons and had substantial playing time at the position as a sophomore. Styler lauded his leadership.
“He’s a battler, he’s a gamer, he’s a great leader,” Styler said.
The Bulldogs’ seven wins this season was their most since 2017.
“Tonight was a great opportunity for us,” Styler said. “It was a great atmosphere to be able to host a home playoff game and obviously just didn’t it get it done, but very proud of how our guys battled throughout the entire time.”
Friday night was the last high school football game for 27 seniors, a large senior group. The finality of having played their last high school football game hit the seniors after the game. A few tears were shed and there were many handshakes and hugs.
“Some of these kids I’ve known since preschool, first grade, having that bond with them, realizing this was my last game playing with them, tough to realize,” Gutierrez said.
Notable departing seniors include Gutierrez; tight end and H-Back Luke Kumskis (4 catches for 36 yards); Valencia, a rugged running back and linebacker; speedster Muhammad Salem (who sat out the game with an injured ankle); receivers Tohma Tucker, Anthony Petrucci, and James Espino; offensive lineman Manuel Garcia-Rivera; defensive lineman Max Montalvo; and linebacker Jack Grivetti.
“These four years here have been amazing,” Gutierrez said. “The community, the people, the students, the teachers are all amazing. Sad to give it up today [but] the legacy will live on.”