With his team leading 2-0 in the Class AA De La Salle Regional quarterfinal, Riverside-Brookfield boys soccer coach Danny Makaric knew his team was in pretty good shape.
But the third-year coach also realized that the game against Juarez was hardly over.
"When you are up 2-0 in any game, you start to relax," Makaric said. "That's something you just can't do though."
The Bulldogs found that out the hard way as Juarez rallied to capture a 4-3 victory and end Riverside-Brookfield's season.
"I've thought about that game 100 times since it ended," Makaric said. "We felt very comfortable, but we made some mistakes and let it slip away."
Makaric was hoping his team would get a shot at highly-regarded Lyons in the regional final. But Juarez, which captured the Chicago Public League Premier Division Conference title this season, earned that opportunity and lost 5-2.
"We wanted a chance to play Lyons to see where we stood," Makaric said. "But we just couldn't take that step this year."
While it would be easy for the Bulldogs to dwell on the Juarez collapse, Makaric refuses to let that happen.
"It hurts to lose a game like that, but we still had an outstanding season," Makaric said.
Riverside-Brookfield concluded the campaign with an 11-4-1 record, which is the best season in the program's history. When Makaric took over the program three years ago, the Bulldogs failed to win a game that season and were outscored 87-11.
"This program has really come a long way in a short period of time," Makaric said. "After that first season, we won seven games last year and were only outscored 37-32."
This fall, the Bulldogs found the back of the net 55 times while allowing a mere 20 goals. That was a big reason why Makaric's crew captured the Suburban Prairie East crown.
"Everyone worked hard," Makaric said. "The assistant coaches and the kids all put in a lot of time. We started working a little bit earlier this year with conditioning, and in the end it paid off for everyone."
Sophomore Gibraham Chavez paced the Riverside-Brookfield attack with 17 goals, while Jonathon Chavez was named the conference MVP.
"We're going to lose four starters, but we have a lot coming back," Makaric said. "We've taken steps each of the past three seasons, and I think we'll do the same next year, too."