Surging bulldogs barrel through Ridgewood

Team to take on Bremen in first round of 5A playoffs

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By MIKE PHILLIPS

The Riverside-Brookfield football locker room erupted in celebration as the team found out that it would have the day off from practice on Saturday. It was the exclamation point on an already jubilant night, as the Bulldogs clinched a playoff berth with a 41-14 trouncing of Ridgewood.

"I'm feeling great. You see how it is," said RB receiver Oscar Reyes, pointing to his teammates jumping and shouting across the room.

Reyes finished the night with 13 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He has also surpassed teammate Matt Sandrik with 1,090 receiving yards for the year.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Bulldogs had their backs against a wall. It was win or go home, and the team came out fighting and finished strong to run their record to 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the Suburban Prairie (East) Conference.

The Bulldogs were led by quarterback Chris Pesek and wide receivers Sandrik and Reyes. Pesek finished the regular season with an eye-popping 2,491 yards and 25 touchdowns. Sandrik finished with 876 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Pesek (366 yards, 4 TDs), looked sharp for the second week in a row. Sandrik (9 catches, 115 yards, 2 TDs), made several leaping catches, something that has become somewhat of a trademark for him and a headache for defenses. Reyes was catching passes all over the field, making long runs after the catch, spinning, sprinting and breaking tackles.

"We've been working hard in practice," said Reyes. "We've been able to get it done."

"Getting it done" has turned this trio into a lethal combination for opposing teams. When Pesek has time to make his reads and his receivers have time to run their routes, the results are devastating. It's exactly how the Bulldogs were able to jump out to a 21-0 lead with 2:26 left in the first quarter.

RB's defense has looked equally impressive lately. It held the Rebels to one touchdown, and that didn't come until well into the fourth quarter. The defense was quick to the ball, stifling Ridgewood's running backs and pressuring Rebel quarterback Joe Appel into hurried and inaccurate throws.

Friday night's victory was near flawless, but there were a rash of penalties on both sides of the ball. When asked if he was concerned about it, RB head coach Otto Zeman said, "No. It's hard sometimes. You get a big lead and you get sloppy. I hope we have that problem in the playoffs. We'll have our hands full."

RB will begin their 5A playoff push this Friday night (7 p.m.) in Midlothian. The Bulldogs will face second-seeded Bremen, who finished the regular season with an 8-1 record and a perfect 7-0 conference mark.

The challenge for RB couldn't come at a better time, however, as the team seems to be peaking on offense and on defense.

For the seniors, including Sandrik and Reyes, this will be their final foray into battle for their high school careers.

Zeman was asked what he and his team would be working on going into the playoffs.

"Winning," he deadpanned.

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