Richards roughs up Astros in league opener
The Bulldogs were more like junkyard dogs Friday night.
What Richards wanted to prove was that its Week 2 loss to Geneva was nothing more than a hiccup, something able to be cured with little difficulty. And those two words pretty much described Shepard’s level of resistance at Korhonen Field.
In fairness to the Astros, their prospects for a second straight win took a major hit when quarterback Chris Hennington did likewise. The senior signal-caller suffered an injury on Shepard’s initial play of the evening and coach Dominic Passolano admitted the circumstances “just derailed us.”
The Astros’ defense did what it could to repel the Bulldogs, frustrating them in a few instances when a touchdown seemed inevitable because of great field position. Richards, however, still found Shepard’s end zone often enough to cruise in with a 33-0 triumph in its South Suburban Conference Red opener.
“We were [ticked] off about last week and there were constant reminders on the little things that cost us the game,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan said. “We harped on that a little bit and the kids responded well. Our defense really responded well because [the Astros] didn’t do much.”
With its passing game basically shelved because of Hennington’s injury, Shepard (1-2, 0-1) had to rely even more heavily on sophomore running back Demetrius Harrison. But after impressive showings in his first two varsity appearances, Harrison was stopped cold by Richards’ prevention corps as he netted only 25 yards on 18 carries.
“Their kids are just fast and aggressive and we got flustered,” Passolano said. “With [Hennington] in there it would have helped us with the snaps, the timing and being able to throw the ball more effectively.”
The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0) had less trouble making headway, but their only touchdown in the opening quarter was set up by a Tyler Demma fumble recovery deep in Astros territory. The drop was caused by Ramonta Hill and Chris Casey and led to Romeo Johnson’s 3-yard scoring dash.
Richards made a couple other treks inside Shepard’s 30 but had nothing to show for it. One of the series ended on a fumble.
“They’ve got a ton of weapons and I’ve got to hand it to our kids for hanging in there,” Passolano said.
Foremost among the Astros' defenders was Keyon Lansdown, who finished with nine solo tackles, one assist and forced one of two Bulldogs fumbles. No other Shepard player registered more than three solo stops, although Mark Siegers was credited with seven assists, a sack and one of the Astros' six tackles for loss. Kenny Brown totaled six assists and also forced a fumble.
Charlie Burnett and Shandon Williams recovered the loose balls for Shepard.
Understandably, Sheehan was far less enamored about his team's missed chances.
“Those are things that are going to kill us in a close game,” he said. “We can’t have that. If we want to be a good football team, we’ve got to run the ball [effectively] and that’s got to be a score.”
The Astros were only delaying their misery, however. Spencer Tears applied some of it with a 52-yard TD reception in the second stanza that featured him “doing things you can’t teach.”
“They weren’t going to catch him,” Sheehan said. “When he gets the ball in his hands, it’s magic.”
More squandered opportunities were forthcoming, one of them after Richards had advanced inside Shepard’s 10. Wasted as well was Kentrell Pierce’s interception that got the ball back for the ‘Dogs at the Astros’ 36.
Just before intermission Richards finally sank a dagger into Shepard when Hasan Muhammad-Rogers and Ryan Willett hooked up on a 47-yard scoring pass to widen the Astros’ deficit to 20 points. Pat Doyle (11 yards) and Muhammad-Rogers (1 yard) added second-half touchdown runs, the former capping a mammoth 95-yard march that included gains of 49 yards by Muhammad-Rogers and 23 by Doyle.
The Bulldogs finished with 291 total yards while holding Shepard below 60. Making life miserable for the Astros’ offense were Hill (eight tackles), Anthony Quinn (eight), Casey (four tackles for loss, two sacks) and Kenny Spey (two sacks, fumble recovery).
“The defense is playing well and coming into their own,” Sheehan said. “Quinn is a sophomore who’s growing by leaps and bounds every week.”
Besides the district rivalry that naturally exists between the teams, Sheehan knew Richards would encounter a Shepard club that had been invigorated by the snapping of an 11-game losing streak in Week 2.
“Everyone gets up a little more for Richards,” he said. “One of our goals is to win conference, but people aren’t just going to hand this thing to us. We can’t afford to mope around and say, ‘Poor us’ — nobody out there is crying us a river that Richards lost [last week].
“We really challenged our seniors to stand up and take a leadership role. This was another step [forward in that regard].”
The Bulldogs meet Oak Lawn in an SSC Red contest on Friday while the Astros will try to right themselves in a conference crossover with Hillcrest. Sophomore Jack Carberry, whose father Kevin once starred for St. Rita, will likely receive the starting assignment at quarterback for Shepard as Hennington is out for the remainder of the year with a torn ACL.
Despite his team’s difficulties, Passolano is by no means ready to wave the white flag.
“We always play these guys early and bounce back,” he said of Richards. “Carberry will keep teams honest and we’ll see positive results soon. This thing’s wide open in our conference and I always like having the tough teams on the schedule first because your kids learn to play faster and are more physical [afterward].”
Shepard 0 0 0 0 — 0
Richards 13 7 13 0 — 33
First downs — 12
Yds. rushing 6 189
Yds. passing 51 102
Total yds. 57 291
Att./comp. 7-4 11-5
Fumbles/lost 4-4 2-2
Had interceptes 1 0
Penalties/yds. — 8-45
Punts/avg. 6-35.3 4-20.0
HLR — Romeo Johnson 3 run (Andrew Calderon kick)
HLR — Spencer Tears 52 pass from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (kick failed)
HLR — Ryan Willett 47 pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Calderon kick)
HLR — Pat Doyle 11 run (Calderon kick)
HLR — Muhammad-Rogers 1 run (kick failed)
Shepard Rushing: Harrison 18-25, Collins 1-0, Hennington 1-(-1), Albrecht 8-(-18). Passing: Albrecht 7-4-51. Receiving: Hufstedler 2-38, Lansdown 1-10, Harrison 1-3.
Richards Rushing: Muhammad-Rogers 15-120, Doyle 7-50, Johnson 7-18, Moore 3-11, Jamerson 3-(-2), Coleman-Williams 4-(-8). Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 11-5-102. Receiving: Tears 3-44, Willett 1-47, McClellan 1-11.