By Marty Farmer
In seven seasons as the head coach of the Riverside-Brookfield High School football team, Brendan Curtin has just about seen it all.
He took over a program in full rebuilding mode in 2012. After winning just three games in his first two seasons, Curtin transformed RBHS into a consistent winner with four straight playoff appearances and a run of 25 wins in 32 games between 2015 through 2017. In 2015, the football team advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class 6A tournament and finished with a 10-2 record.
However, this season, the Bulldogs finished 2-7. It looks the Bulldogs are under construction again.
"Obviously, it was a tough season," Curtin said. "We knew coming into the season replacing 19 of 22 starters would be difficult. We played two freshmen and three sophomores in the starting lineup, which could be a first in the history of our program. We played against teams with bigger, highly sought after players and had more injuries than any year I've been here."
The Bulldogs actually opened the season in promising fashion with a 20-14 win against Morton. The team proceeded to drop seven of eight games, including a 49-0 loss against perennial power Immaculate Conception in the season finale. For the year, RBHS was outscored 58-256 and finished last in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division.
Before looking ahead to next year, Curtin praised his senior class for staying the course season amid plenty of adversity. Players like Dominick Rowe, Joseph Shelven, Riley Shaw, Elliot Royer, Connor Pitts and Samuel Halwaji come to mind.
"I wish I had another season with a lot of the guys from this graduation class," Curtin said. "They didn't let the circumstances of the season dictate their style of play.
"We had a lot of fighters and good teammates with this group," he added. "They represented the program well on and off the field in terms of just being stand up guys. That's a challenge in this day and age, especially when you're taking it on the chin Friday nights."
Plenty of promising players return next fall, including Chris Doherty, Luke Gentile, Matt Novak, Owen Murphy and Dario Marchica.
Competition and accountability will be points of emphasis during the offseason. Fueled in large part by this season's struggles, motivation is a given.
"This will probably be the earliest I've started the offseason program since I've been here," Curtin said. "There's a buzz with the kids itching to get back around each other and working hard. I'm excited about a lot of the things we'll have going on to get ready for next season."