Riverside-Brookfield senior Luke Gentile pointed to a Week 4 victory at Aurora Christian as the turning point in his team’s season.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 2-7 season, dropped to 2-1 on the season after a 56-26 defeat to Bishop McNamara. Locked in a back-and-forth Metro Suburban Blue battle, the Bulldogs (6-3) pulled out a 25-23 victory over Aurora Christian by holding the hosts scoreless in the second half.
Gentile’s 21-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter was the difference. The Bulldogs are set to face Kenwood in a Class 6A first-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at Gately Stadium in Chicago.
“The Aurora Christian win, we just all pulled it together at the end,” Gentile said. “It was a huge team win. Everyone was making plays and we got a late stop to win. To go 3-1 on the season, getting more wins than last season really lifted everyone’s confidence. Since then, everyone is pulling together in the same direction.”
That direction, hopefully, will be a second-round playoff game against the winner of the Deerfield and Crystal Lake South contest.
This season, the Bulldogs have relied on a solid offense paired with an efficient defense. The Bulldogs are averaging 26.3 points per game, while allowing 27.2 points.
Gentile, who plays running back, wide receiver, linebacker and punter, said that wasn’t the case in last season’s two-win campaign. The Bulldogs never scored more than 20 points in a game, and averaged a scant 6.4 points to finish last in the conference standings.
“In the summer, just playing all those 7-on-7s, we were seeing our offense move the ball,” he said. “We struggled to move the ball last year. We didn’t have a good pass or run game. It was difficult to put a bunch of plays together. This year, we have a lot of guys who put in the time in the offseason to get better at their individual roles. Our coaching staff has done a phenomenal job putting us in the right place at the right time. We have a lot of guys making plays on offense.”
Hinsdale Central set
for big battle
Hinsdale Central has a memorable history with its first-round playoff opponent. The Red Devils host Bolingbrook at 6 p.m. Nov. 2.
The Red Devils (8-1) defeated Lyons – and Hinsdale Central’s former coach Dan Hartman – in their regular-season finale. The Lions needed a win to become playoff eligible, but the Red Devils scored 21 first-half points to cruise to the West Suburban Silver win.
The Raiders (6-3) owe the Red Devils some payback from a 23-15 defeat in Week 1 of the 2014 season. At the time, the Raiders were ranked No. 1 by the Chicago Tribune, but Hinsdale Central quarterback Matt Rafferty, a star basketball player, threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns to knock off the Raiders on their home field.
The Red Devils also defeated Bolingbrook in the second round of the 2008 playoffs.
“That was a fun game,” Hinsdale Central first-year coach Brian Griffin said of the 2014 game.
The Red Devils hope to double their fun against the Raiders this week. Bolingbrook enters the playoffs on a two-game skid, but losing to Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1) and Andrew (7-2) by a combined eight points makes them a dangerous team.
“Bolingbrook is a difficult team to prepare for,” Griffin said. “They have a lot of kids going to Division I schools or with offers. They are really fast defensively. Offensively, they are big and can move the ball. But it’s fun to move into the second season. There’s a new level of excitement and fire that you don’t see every week in the regular season.”
Griffin singled out the play of Hinsdale Central quarterback Michael Brescia for guiding the offense to a 29.3 points per game average in the regular season.
“Michael continues to develop and really turned into a really good quarterback,” Griffin said.