Speed kills as Bulldogs race past Spartans
In automotive parlance it was like pitting a pickup truck against a Ferrari — and letting the Ferrari have a head-start.
Friday night’s South Suburban Conference Red matchup between cross-town rivals Oak Lawn and Richards pretty much rated that comparison. Here’s how Spartans coach Sean Lucas described his team’s foe:
“They’re not the big Richards teams of the past, but they are fast,” he said. “Our kids battled them and a few times we had kids in position to make a play, but their feet moved faster than ours.”
Keeping up with the Bulldogs while competing on a level playing field would have been tough enough for Oak Lawn; making things worse was that it spotted Richards a lead.
The Bulldogs scored on each of their first three possessions to shove the Spartans into a 19-0 hole. It was 33-7 at halftime and despite Oak Lawn’s best efforts to fight back in the final two quarters it couldn’t avoid a 46-21 setback.
“I’m proud of our kids, but we knew we’d have to play near-perfect to beat them,” Lucas said. “I wish they had seen a better shot [from us], but I flat-out told our kids after the game this [Richards] team was better than us. There are greater tragedies in life than losing to someone who’s better than you.”
Just as in their 2012 meeting with the Bulldogs, the Spartans (1-3, 0-2) refused to succumb quietly after falling behind. Two years ago while suffering an 18-7 loss they shut out Richards in the second half.
That wasn’t quite the case here, and in addition the Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) carved out a much more comfortable lead for themselves. Leading the way was senior quarterback Hasan-Muhammad Rogers, who threw for 276 yards and five touchdowns, including ones of 24 yards to Spencer Tears and 11 yards to Ryan Willett to culminate the visitors’ first two series.
“[Bulldogs coach] Tony [Sheehan] told me that kid is a once-in-a-lifetime talent,” Lucas said, referring to Muhammad-Rogers. “You don’t get kids like that all the time. They made it look so easy [at times].”
Perhaps it came too easily, as Sheehan believed. After Pat Doyle (8-yard run, 65-yard reception) and Willett (4-yard catch) extended Richards’ edge before halftime, Sheehan thought his guys may have gotten “kind of complacent.”
“[Oak Lawn’s] kids didn’t give up,” he said. “They played hard, we gave them a couple chances [because of mistakes] and they took advantage like a good team would. There’s a little bit of pride and bragging rights on the line in games like this and [the opposition] is going to bring it.
“We’ve got to put the hammer down. We’ve got to keep preaching it and teaching it — you put the nail in the coffin and move on.”
The Bulldogs were never in any real danger, but Steve Anaya (25-yard TD catch) and Joe Robinson (two scoring receptions) made sure the Spartans didn’t go into full retreat. Had Oak Lawn been able to recover an onsides kick at one juncture it would have gotten a chance to narrow the gap to two touchdowns, but that opportunity never materialized.
Jared Moore (40-yard reception) and Muhammad-Rogers (8-yard dash) completed Richards’ scoring. The ‘Dogs finished with 450 total yards, but Sheehan pointed to a couple lost fumbles and an interception in the second half as proof that his squad was not executing properly at all times.
“After that [Moore TD] we stopped playing offensively,” Sheehan said. “We had been moving the ball, playing well, doing the little things right [before that] — that’s the way you want it. You get into a close game and you get three turnovers in the second half, you’re not going to win.
“[Our players] saw how it cost us a game in Week 2 [versus Geneva]. It’s starting to resonate with these young guys that we can’t take plays off or days off or make mistakes.”
Ramonta Hill and Anthony Quinn both registered eight total tackles to pace the Bulldogs’ defensive effort. Roque Castro had six stops and an interception, Kenny Spey and Chris Casey notched three sacks between them, and Doyle and Kush Baxter also swiped passes.
Robinson was a standout for Oak Lawn on both sides of the ball. He caught seven passes in all for 51 yards and finished with four solo tackles, one assist and an interception while on defense. Other notables among the prevention crew were Quintin Prince (four solos, nine assists, two forced fumbles, two tackles for loss, one sack), Kamal Ashkar (three solos, three assists, one pass breakup, forced fumble) and Ryne Melnik (one solo, seven assists).
Alec McCarthy (six receptions, 67 yards) and quarterback Joe Cosenza (21-of-43, 222 yards) also played well on behalf of the Spartans, who host Evergreen Park on Friday.
“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” said Lucas, whose team compounded its misery against Richards by dropping eight balls the coach deemed catchable. “We’re looking forward — you don’t have a choice. We’ve got to play like every game’s a playoff game [from here on].”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, conclude their run of rivalry games when they welcome their other District 218 sister school, Eisenhower, to Korhonen Field on Friday. While the Cardinals have yet to hit their stride, Sheehan doesn’t want his athletes de-emphasizing the upcoming encounter in any way.
“We’ve got to worry about Eisenhower because we’ve got to handle our business and worry about ourselves,” he said. “No one’s going to help us [win the conference]. You can’t bank on other teams’ [assistance]; that’s what makes this week important. We’ve got to come ready to play and be always striving to get better.
“There’s been some pleasant surprises and I think we’re getting closer [to where we thought we’d be]. Obviously that Week 2 [loss] was a disappointment, but that’s why we schedule games like that in the second week: to see how good we are and what we can do. It gets us better for later in the year.”
Richards 19 14 13 0 - 46
Oak Lawn 0 7 14 0 - 21
First downs 21 —
Yds. rushing 174 2
Yds. passing 276 222
Total yds. 450 224
Att./comp. 23-15 43-21
Fumbles/lost 2-2 0-0
Had intercepted 1 3
Penalties/yds 9-60 —
Punts/avg. 4-40.0 —
HLR — Spencer Tears 24 pass from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (Andrew Calderon kick)
HLR — Ryan Willett 11 pass from Muhammad-Rogers (kick failed)
HLR — Pat Doyle 8 run (pass failed)
HLR — Doyle 65 pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Calderon kick)
OL — Joe Robinson 5 pass from Joe Cosenza (Adnane Laanati kick)
HLR — Willett 4 pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Calderon kick)
HLR — Jared Moore 40 pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Calderon kick)
HLR — Muhammad-Rogers 8 run (kick failed)
OL — Steve Anaya 25 pass from Cosenza (Laanati kick)
OL — Robinson 14 pass from Cosenza (Laanati kick)
Richards Rushing: Doyle 10-78, Johnson 5-40, Muhammad-Rogers 12-31, Bridgewater 5-28, Coleman 2-0, Jamerson 2-0, Tears 1-(-3). Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 23-15-276. Receiving: Willett 5-66, Moore 4-69, Tears 3-58, Doyle 1-65, Johnson 1-15, Bridgewater 1-3.
Oak Lawn Rushing: Gipson 7-6, Cosenza 15-1, Robinson 2-(-5). Passing: Cosenza 43-21-222. Receiving: Robinson 7-51, McCarthy 6-67, Anaya 4-35, Loehr 3-33, Dodaro 1-36.