By Steve Millar
and Jason Maholy
Richards’ plan for their contest against crosstown rival Oak Lawn was a simple one: Get an early lead and make the Spartans abandon their run game.
It was mission accomplished for the visiting Bulldogs, who jumped to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and rolled to a 56-14 South Suburban Red win.
Richards (4-0, 2-0) was well aware of what Oak Lawn running back Nick Puente did a week earlier against Argo, when he ran for 277 yards and six touchdowns.
“Obviously when a kid goes off like that, it gets your attention really quickly,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “Stopping the run is always the first goal for the defense, but there was a little more emphasis on it this week.
“We figured if we could get an early lead and force them to throw a little more, we’d be in good shape.”
Richards unleashed a balanced offensive attack on the Spartans. Trishawn Lott ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Marquel Porter.
That was the only pass Porter, the starting quarterback, threw. Richards used three quarterbacks as Sebastian Castro threw for 69 yards and two touchdowns – one on a play on which he lined up at wide receiver and took a handoff on a reverse – and Jack Lind threw for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Walter Riley, Javon Robinson and Cody Dryier all had touchdown catches for the Bulldogs, while LeShon Williams ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Riley is a starting defensive back but also sees time at wide receiver, and is one of several players Sheehan employs on both sides of the ball.
The Bulldogs are rolling, having marched out to a 4-0 start while outscoring the opposition 129-21. While an offense loaded with weapons was expected to be explosive, and has been, the defense that threw back-to-back shutouts against St. Rita and Evergreen Park in weeks 2 and 3 has been just as impressive.
“The defense has just played phenomenal,” Sheehan said. “Shutting out a St. Rita team is no easy thing to do. We had a very good game plan, and we thought we were a very good defense. They have some explosive weapons, but we've got guys all around on our defense.
“I think our defense can keep us in any game.”
The Bulldogs are skilled at every level of the defense, but disrupting offenses begins up front with senior linemen Danny Jackson, Eldridge Dockery and Jordan Harris. Junior Andre Jefferson has seen significant time and been a contributor.
The front seven is completed with the linebacking corps of the Jones brothers – junior Albert and senior Trevon – junior Kasean Terry and senior Chris Majecki.
“They're big, they're fast and they're physical, and that's a good recipe for a good defense,” Sheehan said of his front seven.
Leading the secondary are arguably the Bulldogs top two players at any position, defensive backs Sebastian Castro and Walter Riley. Castro is an Iowa recruit Sheehan has called the best football player in the state. Riley and Castro both have roles on the Bulldogs' offense, as well.
“Having Castro to clean up any mess [in the secondary]... he's really playing at a whole different level,” Sheehan said. “He is lights out and everything he does is full speed, and that's fun to watch. And he's such a team guy, it's refreshing.”
Sheehan knew comign to the season the Bulldogs had the chance to have a big season, and the confidence only grew with a season-opening win on opening night over Lincoln-Way Central, which like St. Rita was a Class 7A quarterfinalist in 2017. The win a week later over the Mustangs moved Richards to 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
“We had a very good summer, worked real hard in August, and we thought we could be pretty good,” Sheehan said. “We were confident going into those (first two) games but you've got to take it day-by-day, week-by-week.”
The Bulldogs' offense, meanwhile, is beginning to solidify in terms of who is playing where and when. Richards has such a wealth of skilled athletes that Sheehan and his coaching staff were challenged to find the appropriate roles for them.
He acknowledged this year's team is likely the most versatile he has ever coached. In addition to Castro and Riley playing on both sides of the ball, primary quarterback Marquel Porter also lines up at wide receiver.
“We have a lot of interchangeable parts and we can move a lot of guys around, and it's fun, and we're still figuring some things out but we're getting there,” he said. “I'd hate to prepare for us because you never know who's going to line up where, to be honest. We can put five different lineups out there and we feel very confident in any of those.”
Richards hosts Shepard (3-1, 1-0) on Friday while Oak Lawn (2-2, 1-1) hosts Evergreen Park (3-1, 1-1).
Chicago Christian 32, Aurora Central Catholic 28
Jeffrey Smith completed 7 of 13 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns to lead Chicago Christian (4-0) in the Metro Suburban crossover.
Brian Anderson hauled in three catches for 92 yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Griffin added five catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.
The Knights, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2008, play at Ridgewood (3-1) on Friday.
Evergreen Park 25, Reavis 24
Host Evergreen Park (3-1, 1-1) stopped a two-point conversion attempt with 3:40 left in the game to hold on for the South Suburban Red win over Reavis.
Robert Streater ran for 157 yards and a touchdown on seven carries to lead the Mustangs, while Jack Manso threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Karlton Carpenter.
Evergreen Park visits Oak Lawn next week.
Shepard 32, Eisenhower 18
Chris Harrison ran for two touchdowns and caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Rishard Blake to lead host Shepard (3-1, 1-0) in its South Suburban Red opener.
Blake also threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Yousef Isa for the Astros, who play at Richards next week.
Stagg 24, Thornwood 22
Devion Williams caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Hansen and returned an interception 13 yards for a touchdown to lift visiting Stagg (1-3, 1-1) to the SouthWest Suburban win.
Reide Modiest ran 21 times for 54 yards and a touchdown for the Chargers, who snapped a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Stagg hosts Thornridge (1-3, 0-1) on Friday.
St. Laurence 31, Marmion 17
Nate Thomas ran 32 times for 186 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown, to lead St. Laurence (2-2, 1-0) in its Catholic League Green opener.
Darius Wilson completed 7 of 12 passes for 123 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to Miles Scott.
The Vikings host Hope Academy (3-1) on Friday.
St. Xavier 33, Lindenwood-Belleville 14
Alex Martinez completed 16 of 24 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns for visiting St. Xavier (2-2).
Harold Davis had five catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.
The Cougars, ranked No. 21 in NAIA, host No. 1 St. Francis (Ind.) on Saturday.