With 2011 Suburban Catholic Conference Blue Division offensive co-MVP Jack Petrando sidelined after a with a knee injury, there may have been a bit of trepidation as St. Francis opened its season Friday night against Riverside-Brookfield.
However, a combination of a veteran offensive line and sophomore running back T.J. Jackson quelled any notions of uncertainty as the Spartans ran all over Riverside-Brookfield en route to a 57-12 victory Friday night in Riverside.
Jackson ran for 3 first-half touchdowns as the Spartans jumped out to an early 28-0 lead. St. Francis (1-0) led 31-6 at halftime, outrushing Riverside-Brookfield (0-1) 191-13 by the half. Jackson finished with 135 yards to go with his three touchdowns in his first varsity game.
"It starts with the offensive line, they did an amazing job today," Jackson said. "I want to thank the coaches for giving me this opportunity, and I can hopefully do what Petrando did last year."
Anchored by University of Michigan-bound left tackle Kyle Bosch, the Spartans imposed their will on the Bulldogs for the majority of the game. St. Francis outrushed Riverside-Brookfield 297-43, controlling the line of scrimmage and wearing down the Bulldogs' defense.
"We lost Jack and he's a great player, but one guy doesn't make a team," Bosch said. "You can't replace Jack, don't get me wrong, but we have kids that can step in like TJ, Alex Alcantara and Dan Beck. They'll fill the void until Jack can return."
The monstrous offensive line for St. Francis allowed quarterback Michael Robinson time to create plays, as the Spartans kept the Bulldogs off-balance all night.
"The smallest kid on our offensive line is 240 pounds," Bosch said. "We have a huge offensive line and we get a great push up front, and we are coached very well, technique-wise. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to rush for 200 yards a game."
Defense and special teams also contributed for the Spartans. Linebacker Connor Bolin recovered an Riverside-Brookfield fumble on the opening kickoff and also returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Kyle Wedoff also recovered an Riverside-Brookfield fumble in the end zone for another St. Francis touchdown.
"The defense forced fumbles and got interceptions, and they were definitely clicking," Bosch said. "Our offense scored a lot of points, but our defense and special teams gave us a lot of momentum."