RIVERSIDE – Injuries may have masked what Riverside Brookfield could have been on the football field this year, but the Bulldogs’ difficulties showed that rebuilding can take time.
RB finished a 1-8 season after losing to Fenton 43-14 in the season finale on Friday. It was the seventh game the Bulldogs lost by more than 20 points.
“As far as reflecting back on this season, it was obviously a great group of kids that fought,” RB coach Brendan Curtin said. “I’ll remember them as kids that fought. We went up against a challenging season. We certainly had our fair share of adversity.”
The adversity came in the form of injuries to many key players. Senior quarterback Jack VandeMerkt was among the wounded, going down in Week 3.
Sophomore Ryan Swift took his place and his experience, playing in seven games and starting at six as quarterback, will be a big bonus for the team next fall.
Fellow sophomore Dean Zigulich emerged as a key threat at wide receiver and caught a touchdown pass from Swift against Fenton. Junior running backs Adolfo Linares, Brian Kulaga and Zach Paisker each started at various points throughout the season and will give the team multiple options out of the backfield next fall.
Defensively, Kulaga, junior Jordan Petronella and sophomore David Pribyl-Pierdinock became key players, as well.
“Looking back, hopefully this is an awakening for our younger guys on what we have to do to get to that level,” Curtin said. “I’m confident we’ll have some guys that will be ready to step up.”
The Bulldogs, which faced six playoff teams, played a lot of younger players by the end of the season because of a lack of healthy senior options. Still, that senior group left its mark on the program.
“The senior class, they’re obviously going to leave some big shoes to fill, Lewis Rogers especially,” Curtin said. “He did some great things for us this year.”
Now that Curtin’s second year as RB coach has come to a close, the process for year three begins. RB is 3-15 in his two years at the helm.
Despite the lack of wins, Curtin believes there are positive signs.
“Although it may not have show in the column that we desire it to show, I do believe we made strides in all phases of the game,” Curtin said. “It’s a process. That’s the bottom line. These things do take time. I think when you’re trying to establish a new set of cultures, it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Fenton 43, Riverside Brookfield 14
Ryan Swift passing TD, rushing TD
Dean Zigulich receiving TD, 2 extra points
Richard Theus, Nick Cundari team-high tackles