Junior running back runs for 187 yards and a touchdown, Sebastian Castro adds late TD in Bulldogs season-opening win over Knights
By Tim Cronin
Richards has never ducked opponents. The Bulldogs have played all comers for decades, and lived to tell about it.
They can say plenty about last Friday's season-opening victory at Korhonen Field – the first game since retired longtime Richards coach Gary Korhonen lost his valiant battle with cancer. The Bulldogs ran for 250 yards, picked off two passes and recovered a fumble while scoring a 17-7 victory over Lincoln-Way Central, a resurgent powerhouse constructed along similar lines as the hosts: Play dominating defense and control the ball on the ground.
The Knights pass more, but neither their aerial nor ground game worked against Richards, with the exception of one drive. For that, credit is due the Bulldogs, beginning with Sebastian Castro, a lanky senior who plays quarterback and defensive back with equal aplomb. Add in Leshon Williams, a junior who crashed through the Knights defense for 187 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, and Walter Riley, Castro's partner in pickoffs on defense, and the Bulldogs have the ingredients to make a lot of noise this season.
"Castro, if he's not the best football player in the state of Illinois, I don't know who is," Richards coach Tony Sheehan declared. "They're special players, and we're fortunate that we have a few."
Castro's exploits Friday included a 5-of-9 passing effort for 49 yards, and an interception of Central quarterback Bryce Hayes after a one-on-one battle with Knights running back Justin Ellis on the Richards 3 yard line with the Knights threatening and less than two minutes to play. He also made sundry other tackles in the secondary and, oh, scored the game-clinching touchdown.
"He does things you just can't teach," Sheehan said.
At one point, Castro and Riley teamed up to crash into Central running back Henry Woods in the end zone near the end of the first half.
"My buddy Henry kinda got hit by both safeties, and I guess the refs saw it they were both going for the ball, but I thought otherwise," said the Knights' Conner McWilliams, who scored Central's only touchdown.
Several neutral observers shared McWilliams' view, but the play stood and the Knights were held scoreless through the first half.
Williams had opened the scoring with a 22-yard jaunt as time expired in the first quarter. Richards led 10-0 on Sebastian Lesak's 26-yard field goal with 2:53 left in the half.
Late in the third quarter, the Knights put together an 80-yard scoring drive that totaled 95 when penalties were factored in. Hayes hit McWilliams with a 33-yard pass that McWilliams barely got into the end zone, hounded by Adam Shorts.
"I realized the dude had me by the legs, and I had to dive into that end zone," McWilliams said. "I got a little nervous there, I'm not going to lie."
But the Bulldogs went back to Williams to grind out yardage, chew the clock, and eventually score on Castro's 22-yard scamper.
"It was an amazing night," Williams said, crediting linemen Hamilton Knox, Jalen Lee, Jaheim Price and James Jones. "They had as much success as I had today. We wanted to show them that we were as physical as them, to shove it down their throat."
If that isn't the hallmark of Richards football, as guided for decades by Korhonen and now by Sheehan – with Gary's son Kris now on his staff – nothing is.
"If we get those (penalties) cleaned up, we can be pretty good," Sheehan said, referring to the 100-plus yards in penalties accrued by his Bulldogs. "But we've got to get those cleaned up. Week 1, you expect some of that."
Richards is on the road at St. Rita in Week 2. The Mustangs lost their opener to Joliet Catholic, 30-20.