Growing pains: Youthful Astros absorb another hit

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Growing pains are called that for a reason.

Simply put, there’s nothing enjoyable about them, as Shepard players found out again Friday night. The Astros were hoping their season-opening trouncing at the hands of visiting Brother Rice had merely been an anomaly.

Instead, it was an indicator of things to come, at least for another week.

A trip to Chicago Heights for a confrontation with Marian Catholic did Shepard absolutely no good in the rebuilding-confidence department; in fact, it made things worse. The Astros did score their first points of 2013, and Edgar Madrigal’s 22-yard field goal actually staked them to a 3-0 lead.

However, it was all downhill from there. A special-teams mishap by Shepard laid the groundwork for the Spartans’ go-ahead score, and the tandem of Ki-Jana Carter and Emilio Garza proceeded to make life miserable for the Astros the rest of the night.

Between them, the Marian duo tallied a half-dozen times, with each player including a punt return among his three touchdowns. Their combined efforts led to a resounding 49-3 victory for the Spartans, their second in as many outings under new coach Jerry Verde.

Verde, a Marian grad, guided Crete-Monee to the Class 6A title a year ago. He replaced his former prep coach, Dave Mattio, as the Spartans’ boss.

While the immediate future appears bright for Marian, the Astros (0-2) are still trying to navigate their way through some early rough waters.

“We have a lot of guys starting who we’re going to have to bring along [slowly] and be patient with,” Shepard coach Dominic Passolano said. “It’s one of those deals where we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“We did see some improvement in areas. There wasn’t a consistency to it obviously, but we can’t jump down their throats and lose them [mentally].”

A big part of the Astros’ current trouble is a shortage of difference-making talent.

“We’ve been spoiled the last four years, where we’ve had the speed and skill [athletes],” Passolano said. “We don’t have the people who can make big plays.

“It’s a huge step forward for us competition-wise playing Brother Rice and Marian — the two teams we played really came after us. Marian’s numbers are down, but they’re still a program that goes up against great competition.”

Passolano did like the intensity his guys displayed at the outset, but he worried about the staying power of that emotion.

“Our defense was making them work,” Passolano said. “But we were exerting so much effort and focus that it was going to be tough to keep it up.”

Sure enough, when the situation headed south on Shepard, there was no turning it back around. The Spartans accumulated nearly 300 yards of total offense, while the Astros had to be content with generating just 99 yards in all, although that bettered the previous week’s showing versus Rice by more than 40.

Kyle Dye’s 26 yards topped Shepard’s ground-gaining work, while E.J. Rueck’s two catches and 24 yards led a meager aerial attack. Both players helped out on the defensive side by respectively forcing and recovering a Marian fumble. Shane Javorski (three solo tackles, four assists), Jabari Jones (three solos, three assists, one tackle for loss) and Khalid Mitchell (two solos, two assists, one tackle for loss, interception) were other principal figures for the Astros.

Shepard will attempt to get on the right track Friday night, when it begins South Suburban Conference Red play by matching up with District 218 neighbor Eisenhower. The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start in 2013.

“Last year, they were in the same boat as us this year,” Passolano said. “There’s a lack of experience [on our part] and we’ve made rookie mistakes. But the players see the consistency other teams have and that’s what we want to [eventually] see.”


Marian Catholic 49
Shepard 3

Yds. rushing 51 97
Yds. passing 48 198
Total yds. 99 295
Att./comp. 21-7 14-8
Fumbles/lost 0-0 1-1
Had intercepted 2 1


ABS — Edgar Madrigal, 22-yd. field goal

Shepard Rushing: Dye 15-26, Huddleston 4-22, Javorski 6-9, Jones 2-(-1), E. Williams 1-(-5). Passing: Javorski 21-7-48. Receiving: Rueck 2-24, R. Williams 2-19, Vitello 1-4, Dye 1-2, E. Williams 1-(-1).