By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School football team will celebrate Senior Night on Friday, Sept. 13 against visiting Bishop McNamara. In the meantime, the Bulldogs started the party early as four seniors led the team to a 40-28 win against host Morton on Aug. 30.
Quarterback Matt Torres, wide receiver Luke Gentile, two-way lineman Brandon Aguilar and linebacker Eddie Pena turned in strong performances that, collectively, powered RBHS to an auspicious start this season.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back in their opener.
The victory signified signs of progress for RBHS, which endured growing pains as an inexperienced varsity squad en route to a 2-7 record last season.
Torres, who earned the starting nod under center over sophomore Owen Murphy, completed 17 of 29 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns against Morton.
"Matt was masterful in leading our offense," RBHS coach Brendan Curtin said. "His poise and confidence got us through our rough patches."
Gentile, who plays wide receiver, running back, defensive back and on special teams, provided leadership and production all over the field. He finished with eight catches for 104 yards and scored two touchdowns.
"Luke rarely left the field ad basically carried us at times during the game," Curtin noted.
While Aguilar didn't necessarily post notable stats, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior's grit inspired RBHS
"Brandon was a warrior on both lines," Curtin said. "He was not 100 percent but you would never know it based on his tough and physical play. His inspirational performance was certainly appreciated by players and staff alike."
Pena arguably had the most memorable game, scoring two touchdowns on defense. The opportunistic linebacker recovered a pair of fumbles and scored TDs from 15 and 35 yards, respectively, in the first and fourth quarter.
"I can't recall a player scooping and scoring two touchdowns in a game prior to Eddie's terrific night," Curtin said. "He was equal to the task on the defensive side of the ball."
Other seniors like Danny Hillyer (28 yards receiving) and Chris Doherty (31 yards rushing) contributed for the Bulldogs
Sophomore Matt Novak and his older brother, junior Nic Novak, also played well for the victors. Matt had two receptions for 14 yards and made 4 of 5 extra points, while Nic caught three passes for 37 yards. Like many players on the Bulldogs' roster, the Novak brothers can play multiple positions.
"When we were grinding it out in camp, we asked our players to learn various positions on all three units," Curtin said. "We reaped the benefit of that [preparation] Friday night against Morton."
Most significantly, the Bulldogs started the season off well with a victory on the road against an area nonconference rival.
"To get a 'W' on the road in front of a boisterous crowd is a heck of an accomplishment," Curtin said. "I couldn't be more proud of the effort put forth by our young men. It was a total team effort."
Morton running back Keshon Willis paced the Mustangs with 134 yards and three TDs on 14 carries.
RBHS remains on the road with a Week 2 matchup against Wauconda on Friday, Sept. 6. Kickoff is 7:15 p.m.
"We are facing another challenging contest on the road this week," Curtin said. "We have to put the [Morton] victory behind us and lock on to our next opponent."