Photo by Jeff Vorva
Richards’ sophomore Leshon Williams was able to do damage against Eisenhower in his first start on Friday.
It didn’t matter to senior inside linebacker Curtis Hale that Eisenhower was 5-0 overall and his Richards team was just 3-2 when the Bulldogs traveled to Blue Island on Friday.
Both teams were unbeaten in the South Suburban Red. Besides, he said, “To tell you the truth, the conference always runs through us.”
Except nobody was running through the Bulldogs in a 34-3 win that saw Richards do the trampling — even without junior leading rusher Derek Flowers. With Flowers sitting with what Richards Athletic Director Ken Styler said was for a code of conduct violation, sophomore running back Leshon Williams had the game of his young life, running for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.
Meanwhile, Eisenhower’s Tim Baity, who entered the evening as one of the top rushers in the South Suburbs with 835 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 carries, was limited to 84 yards on 17 tries. On the Cardinals’ first possession, Hale stopped Baity for no gain on third-and-one and fourth-and-one, setting the tone for the evening.
“Our coaches had a great plan,” Hale said. “Basically, my job was to run at the guards and fill the gaps. We knew (Baity) was a good back and we were going to have to step it up.”
The Bulldogs (4-2, 3-0) stepped up on both sides of the ball, limiting Eisenhower (5-1, 2-1) to 191 yards of total offense while rolling up 420 yards of their own — 341 on the ground.
“We said all week, ‘It’s just another game,’” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “They were 5-0 … but we were battle-tested. We’ve played a tough schedule, and it prepared us for this.
“We knew schematically they had some things we could exploit. We thought we could pound the ball at ‘em.”
Flowers, who has 611 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, helped Williams all week despite knowing he wouldn’t play.
“Derek motivated me,” Williams said. “He told me to treat it like a regular game, don’t let the hype get to me. — even though, with them being 5-0, this was basically for the conference.”
Williams had a 14-yard carry for Richards’ first score. A 28-yard field goal from Luis Torres made it 7-3 late in the first quarter, where the score remained until quarterback Sebastian Castro (9 carries, 79 yards) had a four-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, set up by a 55-yard Williams burst.
The Cardinals weren’t really out of it until Richards scored twice in 47 seconds early in the fourth quarter. First, Williams had a four-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 97-yard drive. Then Hale forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Samuel Alvarado recovered and, after Castro ran for 17 yards on first down, Williams cruised to pay dirt from 12 yards out on second down.
Orrion Prater’s 9-yard run with 1:34 to play capped the scoring. By that time, Williams was celebrating on the sidelines with his teammates.
“He and Derek have been leaning on each other all year — ever since we moved him to the varsity this summer,” Sheehan said. “We told him tonight was going to be his coming-out party — and it was.”
A member of the freshman team a year ago and the Blue Island Untouchables before that, Williams said he’d never eclipsed 200 yards in a single game before.
“This might have been the best game I’ve ever had in my football career,” he said. “I believe in myself, and I put in the work to do it.”
As have the Bulldogs. Their 4-2 start included losses to Lemont and Phillips. Their 26 opponent wins heading into Eisenhower’s homecoming was the most in the conference and seven more than the Cardinals’ league-low 19.
Evergreen Park, Argo and Oak Lawn remain on the Bulldogs’ schedule. A seventh conference title in Sheehan’s 10 seasons is well within reach.
“This is why we schedule the way we do,” Sheehan said. “We can only get better from here.”