A raucous crowd dressed mostly in white greeted Richards when it arrived at Batavia High School Friday night.
The fans’ so-called “whiteout” ultimately proved a washout, however, at least as far as rattling the visitors was concerned.
“I think our kids enjoyed it and thrived on it,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan said. “It’s what high school football is all about.
“We’ve got some guys who I don’t think know [or care] where they are. They’re football players and they love playing in front of people. [The fans] were loud, but a lot of our kids used it positively.”
Richards also made sure the noise got dialed down significantly in the third quarter. That’s when the Bulldogs put some distance between themselves and their namesakes, as they piled up 18 points in relatively rapid fashion.
That opened up a comfortable 31-13 lead for Richards and allowed it to eventually bank a 31-26 victory over Batavia, which had captured 20 consecutive regular-season wins and was part of most preseason top 25s compiled within the Chicagoland area.
“This is probably No. 1 [among regular-season triumphs] since I’ve taken over,” said Sheehan, who is in his sixth season of coaching at his alma mater. “[Batavia is] a quality program that’s well-coached with physical, smart kids. They’re everything we thought they’d be.
“To go on the road and come out with a victory, it’s got to be our best win. It was a great football game and, confidence-wise, it helps out a lot.”
The biggest edge the Bulldogs (2-0) appeared to have over Batavia heading into the game was team speed, and Sheehan felt his squad indeed “had more than they could handle.”
Certainly, Tacari Carpenter was too fast for Batavia defenders. His reception of a short Hasan Muhammad-Rogers pass became a 78-yard touchdown that got Richards’ momentum-swinging third-period surge underway. Carpenter had also accounted for the ’Dogs’ initial TD of the night on a 10-yard reception seven minutes into the opening quarter.
“Right off the bat — bam,” Sheehan said, referring to Carpenter’s longer six-pointer. “The defense had played well overall [in the first half] and we were feeling pretty good.”
That sensation never went away, either, as Richards’ prevention corps quickly forced a Batavia punt and its offense reached the end zone for the second time in as many series. Muhammad-Rogers hooked up with Ryan Willett on a 50-yard aerial strike that ballooned the Bulldogs’ lead to 25-13 with 6:54 remaining in the third stanza.
Then the defense reared up one more time to thwart Batavia’s ensuing journey deep into Richards territory. Savon Robinson caused a fumble and Dwayne Jiles returned it 92 yards for a backbreaking score. The defensive touchdown was Jiles’ second in two weeks, following a 30-yard interception runback against Harlan.
Robinson (eight tackles) and Jiles (eight stops in addition to his fumble return) were among a number of defensive difference-makers. Also heard from were Romel Hill (team-best 13 tackles), Andrew Venerable (12), Kenny Spey (seven), Chrishawn Ross (six stops, interception) and Carpenter (six stops).
“They have a lot of formations to try to get you confused and they had 359 [total] yards, but the defense held up,” Sheehan said. “If we don’t kill ourselves, I don’t know if they score in the first half.”
One of the instances of which Sheehan was thinking was a second-quarter sequence that saw Batavia erase a 6-0 deficit by tallying on consecutive possessions. Bridging Anthony Scaccia’s 2-yard touchdown run and his 27-yard scoring reception was a mishandled kickoff return by the Bulldogs, which placed their hosts in prime scoring position.
The drive that concluded with Scaccia’s initial TD, meanwhile, had been kept alive by a late hit called on Richards on a fourth-and-12 play at the ’Dogs’ 23. Spencer Tears’ 29-yard TD catch, however, allowed the visitors to enter halftime deadlocked at 13.
And, as to be expected with a good team, Batavia refused to roll over once its deficit grew to 18 points in the second half. Quarterback Micah Coffey reached Richards’ end zone on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter and fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mike Moffatt near the end of the contest.
That brought Batavia within five points, but the Bulldogs were able to corral an onsides kick and seal the deal.
“That’s how it ended, thank God,” said Sheehan, whose team faces another stern test against Lemont on Friday. The Indians knocked Richards out of the Class 6A playoffs last fall and have had a recent run of good luck against the Bulldogs.
“We’re 2-0 and it’s Lemont, so there won’t be any [emotional] letdown,” Sheehan said. “We had them on the ropes last year and made six turnovers. We felt like we let one get away in that second round.”
Richards 6 7 18 0 - 31
Batavia 0 13 0 13 - 26
First downs 16 —
Yds. rushing 135 114
Yds. passing 259 245
Total yds. 394 359
Att./comp. 26-15 39-22
Fumbles/lost 1-0 1-1
Had intercepted 1 1
Penalties/yds. 10-115 10-120
Punts/avg. 2-40.0 —
HLR — Tacari Carpenter, 10-yd. pass from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (kick failed)
BA — Anthony Scaccia, 2-yd. run (kick good)
BA — Scaccia, 27-yd. pass from Micah Coffey (kick failed)
HLR — Spencer Tears, 29-yd. pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Shawn Chiaramonte kick)
HLR — Carpenter, 78-yd. pass from Muhammad-Rogers (kick failed)
HLR — Ryan Willett, 50-yd. pass from Muhammad-Rogers (pass failed)
HLR — Dwayne Jiles, 92-yd. fumble return (kick failed)
BA — Coffey, 1-yd. run (pass failed)
BA — Mike Moffatt, 12-yd. pass from Coffey (kick good)
Richards Rushing: Muhammad-Rogers 10-46, Johnson 9-42, Hill 2-34, Ross 3-15, Willett 1-9, Tears 1-(-11). Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 26-15-259. Receiving: Carpenter 7-128, Tears 3-46, Willett 2-60, Shannon 2-29, Hill 1-(-4).