WEST CHICAGO – Riverside-Brookfield sophomore Owen Murphy had a 57-yard touchdown reception Friday at Wheaton Academy that put the Bulldogs ahead in the second quarter.
That wasn’t even his biggest offensive contribution.
With 8:30 left, Murphy had to replace starting senior quarterback Matt Torres.
“I saw Matt on the ground and was worried for him. I saw he got hit in the head and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got to step up now,’” said Murphy, a Notre Dame baseball recruit.
“We just stuck together, everyone pulling one direction. It was amazing. I didn’t think we’d waste that much time, but it was absolutely astonishing, one of the greatest drives I’ve ever been a part of.”
By extending their final drive another five minutes, Murphy helped the Bulldogs secure a 20-17 Metro Suburban Conference Blue victory.
After a one-year absence, the Bulldogs (6-2, 3-2 in MSC Blue) clinched a playoff berth for the fifth time in six seasons.
“Between this year and last, we’ve come so far and it’s nice. It feels so great,” said R-B senior two-way starter Luke Gentile, a member of the 2017 playoff team.
“It’s so nice this time to be an important factor in it. That first round in the playoffs my sophomore year, even though it was mainly a learning experience, it’s taught me so much.”
Wheaton Academy (4-4, 1-4) must beat Aurora Christian (4-4, 1-4) at home Oct. 25 to reach the playoffs for the second straight season and fourth time in the past six.
The Warriors had one last chance Friday but the ball was at their 24 with 1:34 left and no timeouts.
They reached the R-B 36 before two penalties. On fourth-and-8 from the 42, R-B senior Rahim Kouferidji’s sack and Eduardo Pena’s fumble recovery ended the game.
“It’s quite a turnaround (from 2-7 in 2018). I’m really proud of the kids and the way they battled through adversity tonight. It was a really impressive and very inspiring performance,” R-B coach Brendan Curtin said.
“Owen’s an incredible running threat and he’s great when he’s playing receiver, but we have all of the faith in the world in our quarterbacks.”
On his second play, Murphy completed an 8-yard pass to Nic Novak on third-and-6. Murphy later converted third-and-4 and fourth-and-1 situations by carrying the ball himself.
“It was great to be able to run. I haven’t been able to do that for quite a while,” Murphy said. “I’ve been a quarterback for the past couple of years and getting the opportunity (Curtin) has given me, I’ve just tried to take it and run with it.”
Gentile’s 21-yard run put the Bulldogs ahead 20-17 in the third quarter. Gentile appeared stopped, but cut back and resumed his initial path.
“Some guy pulled my jersey and spun me forward and I just saw the sideline wide open. It was something. I don’t even know how it happened,” Gentile said.
In the second quarter, senior Chris Doherty’s 43-yard TD run tied the game 7-7 after he appeared stopped near the sideline.
“I basically saw (the defender) taking an angle way too far out. I just cut it in,” Doherty said. “I guess the receivers (blocking) did the rest. I just kind of ran with them and I’ve got to thank the (offensive) line.”
Senior transfer Jayson Rucker scored the Warriors’ touchdowns with a 27-yard run on their opening drive and a one-handed, 25-yard diving catch from quarterback David Dorn to put the Warriors ahead 17-13. Lars Cassell kicked a 30-yard field goal just before halftime.
The Warriors were threatening until senior Jake Stewart’s fumble recovery at the 24 began R-B’s last drive. Josh Swiatek added a second-quarter fumble recovery.