RIVERSIDE – Jack VandeMerkt is back at quarterback for Riverside Brookfield. The three-sport athlete is also expected to be a key figure for the Bulldogs' boys basketball team and won the Metro Suburban Conference high jump title in the spring. VandeMerkt is hoping to lead RB back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Santaromita: As a returning quarterback do you feel like you're seeing the game better?
VandeMerkt: The game slows down a little bit this time. I think we got a lot more speed on our side of the ball. I can read the defenses better after a whole year. I'm faster, stronger, better, more accurate.
Santaromita: How has being a three-sport athlete helped or hurt you?
VandeMerkt: It's beneficial because it's better to be competing all year round I think than to train for six months by yourself. I'd rather be working hard against someone next to me than I would be by myself in a weight room.
Santaromita: Do you think about last year's 2-7 record often?
VandeMerkt: That was our motivation in the weight room all year. It's the motivation out here now. It's got to be better. It's obvious. When you're doing a drill and you're thinking "Should I just half-ass it right now or should I go all out?" you remember 2-7 and you push.
Santaromita: Is there any change in year two under coach Brendan Curtin?
VandeMerkt: Another whole offseason just being around him all day. Last year we started in June. I felt like everyone was all in all offseason this year. In prior years everyone would show up for the first two weeks and then it would just gradually fall off after that in terms of attendance for those morning sessions. Now everyone was there every day on time 15 minutes early.
Santaromita: What is a strength of the team?
VandeMerkt: I think we're fast. This is definitely the fastest team since my freshman year, all around, offense, defense, even our linemen. I think that will be one of our strengths this year. We're still Riverside Brookfield, we're not going to get big linemen so we've got to use that.
Santaromita: What are your goals for the year?
VandeMerkt: We've just got to go 1-0 every week. The bigger long-term goal is we want to win conference and make the playoffs.
Aug. 30 at St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 Lemont, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Gary West (Ind.), 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Rich Central, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Ridgewood, 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 4 Glenbard South, 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Elmwood Park, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 Nazareth, 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 25 Fenton, 7:15 p.m.
WEEK 1 MATCHUP
Who: Riverside Brookfield at St. Francis
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: 2130 W. Roosevelt Road, Wheaton
2012 records: Riverside Brookfield 2-7, St. Francis 5-4
Outlook: The Bulldogs haven't started 1-0 since 2004 and don't have an easy task in front of them to change that. St. Francis beat RB 57-12 in Week 1 last year and has topped the Bulldogs in three straight season openers. Senior running back James Butler and sophomore quarterback Justin Berry already have Division I offers and lead the Spartans' offense.