By Marty Farmer
While there are many elements to winning, talent tends to trump most (if not all) contributing factors. Led by dynamic playmakers like Hunter Hughes, Nic del Nodal and Stefan Giminski, the Riverside-Brookfield High School team certainly translated its abundant roster into success last season with an 8-2 record and Class 6A playoff appearance.
Losing 18 starters to graduation in 2017, the Bulldogs have reloaded for the upcoming season. Talent will return to the gridiron at theMartin H. Kennelly Athletic Complex, albeit mostly in the form of new players.
"This group is great teammates," RBHS head coach Brendan Curtin said. "The kids are respectful to one another. As a coach, you can get things done being surrounded by kids like ours who are willing to serve as ideal teammates.
Since multiple players are competing for several positions, Curtin respectfully declined to talk about any specific players.
"I want to stay away from mentioning any names because we truly are a team, or better yet, a family and band of brothers," Curtin said. "Without tipping our hand too much, I can say that we are a talented team that's blessed with real deal playmakers.
"There's competition all over the place and I would hate to leave someone out from the competition. Obviously we graduated a lot of players, but I'm confident in this group."
The Bulldogs' theme this season is "Win from Within." According to Curtin, the theme is about each player declaring a personal level of accountability and work ethic towards achieving team goals.
"There are certain levels of toughness and physicality associated with Bulldog football," Curtin said. "We define toughness as the ability to perform at the top tier of your skills regardless of circumstance. We know the breaks will be up against us from time to time, but the expectation always will be to perform to the best of our abilities.
"If we can do those things and continue to be a good teammate by supporting each other," he added, "good things are going to happen for us this season."
In terms of scheme, the Bulldogs will be balanced on offense. A mix of running and passing, protected by an offensive line with good size will be the game plan.
"I think we have a handful of playmakers that will help us put points on the board," Curtin said. "We have some decent-sized kids on the front line. We've always had one or two kids on the offensive line, but this season we have some big kids across the board that can get the job."
The defensive approach will be similar to last season.
"Last season and this one, the defense is a bit different than the previous years," Curtin said. "We've brought a certain type of physical defense, but we've switched it up a bit moving forward based on our personnel."
In terms of the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division, defending champion and two-time Class 3A state champion Immaculate Conception is the favorite. RBHS, which finished second to the Knights in conference in 2017, returns as a top contender. With some teams moving between the Metro Suburban Blue and Red Divisions, RBHS is the only public school remaining in the Metro Blue.
The rest of the Blue division includes Aurora Christian, Aurora Central Catholic, Bishop McNamara, Wheaton Academy and St. Francis.
"Being the only public school in the Metro Suburban Blue is tough," Curtin said. "The private schools which we will be going up against utilize a wide scope in their ability to obtain student-athletes.
"With that being said, one of our team mottos is 'respect all, fear none,'" he added. "We sincerely welcome all challenges."