By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team blew out Morton 33-0 in its opener last season. That comprehensive victory set the tone for a five-game winning streak and an 8-2 record overall.
The rematch on Friday at RBHS was considerably closer as the host Bulldogs edged the Mustangs 20-14 in overtime.
With so many new starters this season, it's too early to tell if the Bulldogs' Week 1 victory will translate to the bigger picture as well as it did last year. Regardless, a win is a win and RBHS earned it with critical contributions from both sides of the ball plus solid play from special teams.
"We have a young team with not many returning starters," RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said. "We have a bunch of guys who are getting their first taste of varsity football this season. I think we grew up a lot against Morton. We found out a lot about ourselves which is very encouraging."
After RBHS scored first in overtime to take a 20-14 lead, Morton lost the ball on a fumble to end the game.
Luke Gentile scored the game-winning touchdown for RBHS on a 5-yard run. Along with teammate Brandon Aguilar, Gentile forced the aforementioned fumble in overtime. The Bulldogs' Connor Pitts recovered the loose ball to secure the victory.
"Morton ran a jet sweep and Luke and Brandon converged on the ball carrier quickly," Curtin said about the game-ending turnover. "They forced a fumble and Connor recovered it."
After a scoreless first half, the action picked up in the second half as the teams combined for 28 points and RBHS came back twice to tie the game.
Morton scored first on a broken play that went for 60 yards, but RBHS responded with a 14-play scoring drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions. The Bulldogs' Chris Doherty capped off the drive on a 4-yard run into the end zone.
RBHS tied the game again at 14-all in the fourth quarter when Doherty scored a touchdown on a 45-yard run off a sprint draw play.
Morton had an opportunity win the game with 39 seconds left in regulation; but the Mustangs' 41-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
RBHS junior quarterback Dario Marchica turned in an efficient performance, completing 16 of 20 passes for 93 yards. Fellow junior Matt Torres also saw playing time at quarterback.
"We switched off a bit between our quarterbacks during the game," Curtin said. "Each of them brings certain things to the table."
Doherty rushed for 57 yards on nine carries. Wide receiver Joe Shelven contributed six catches for 55 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Dominick Rowe had seven tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack. Elliot Royer finished with 7.5 tackles and a pass breakup.
Luke Gentile tallied five tackles.
RBHS hosts Wauconda on Friday, Aug. 31. Kickoff is 7:15 p.m. RBHS beat Wauconda 43-21 last season.
"With the exception of last year, Wauconda typically has a playoff-caliber team," Curtin said. "They have big kids on the offensive and defensive lines. We have had some good games in the past. It's Bulldogs versus Bulldogs."