OLYMPIA FIELDS – A familiar pattern is emerging in Riverside Brookfield’s first four games: play quality opposition and not be able to play with them for a full game.
The Bulldogs fell to 0-4 with a 33-6 loss at Rich Central on Friday and now enter Metro Suburban Conference play still in search of their first win.
The Olympians are 4-0 and join the list of tough teams RB has gone up against. Week 1 opponent St. Francis is currently 3-1 with its only loss coming to a highly-regarded Montini squad. In Week 2, RB faced a Lemont team that is only 1-3, but made the Class 6A semifinals last year. RB traveled to Gary West Side in Week 3 to face a team that features an Ohio State-bound wide receiver.
“Hopefully these past four games have prepared us,” RB head coach Brendan Curtin said. “We have outperformed every team we have played at some point throughout the course of the game. Granted, we’ve come out on the short end of the stick each week, but I still feel like our kids can play with the athletes we are seeing.”
One reason for Curtin’s optimism has been the quarterback play of sophomore Ryan Swift. Swift scored the Bulldogs’ only points against Rich Central with a rushing touchdown, and did it in his first varsity start. Swift debuted after replacing an injured Jack VandeMerkt during the Week 3 game.
“He made a couple mistakes that you may expect from a sophomore quarterback,” Curtin said. “His moxie and poise really impressed me. He doesn’t get rattled easily and he’s always calm, cool and collected.”
Swift’s play has earned him the starting spot for now, and although VandeMerkt still is banged up, Curtin envisions him moving to wide receiver when he returns. Since VandeMerkt is 6-foot-7, the Bulldogs worked on packages during the summer to use his height and jumping ability in a different way. The basketball star could complement Lewis Rogers, who has emerged as RB’s top receiver.
“He can go up and get the ball and one stride of Jack’s covers three or four yards,” Curtin said. “Obviously Jack knows the offense inside and out ... so it should be an easy transition in that regard.”
Defensively, RB forced four turnovers last week and will need more big plays at Ridgewood in the conference opener Friday. Curtin predicted a high-scoring game thanks to a Rebels’ offense that relies on spreading the ball around and a short passing game.
“I think the guys have had their eyes on conference,” Curtin said. “I obviously am entering year two, but there is a sense of familiarity with the next four out of the five teams we’re going to play. They’re looking forward to it.”
Rich Central 33
Riverside Brookfield 6
RB leaders Ryan Swift: 20-for-34, 160 passing yards, rushing TD Lewis Rogers: 4 rec., 5 tackles, interception
Week 5: Riverside Brookfield at Ridgewood
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Where: 7500 W. Montrose Ave., Norridge
Records: Riverside Brookfield 0-4, Ridgewood 1-3
Outlook: Its the Metro Suburban Conference opener for both teams. Riverside Brookfield's playoff hopes hinge on winning the conference title. The Rebels got on the board with a 7-0 win over Kankakee in Week 3. RB won last year's meeting 34-28.