Bulldogs stay perfect by shutting down Astros
Score an A-plus for Richards’ “D” Friday night in Palos Heights.
While the Bulldogs’ offense wasn’t bad, either, Richards coach Tony Sheehan saw enough flaws to resist giving it a similarly high grade. The same thing couldn’t be said of the visitors’ prevention corps, which completely hamstrung host Shepard.
Already struggling to develop a consistent attack before meeting up with their District 218 and South Suburban Conference Red rival, the Astros found no answers opposite the Bulldogs, who not only pitched a shutout but also held Shepard to less than 70 total yards.
“Offensively, it’s a tough deal,” said Astros coach Dominic Passolano, whose squad got tagged with a 29-0 setback. “We started to get some drives going, but their linebackers are fast. We’d get to the outside and they’d run us down.”
Actually, Richards had stalwarts everywhere as it completely dominated in that phase of the game. Romel and Ramontay Hill both recorded 10 tackles, but lineman Savon Robinson was every bit as imposing as he had eight tackles — including three for loss — three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
That retrieval supplied the Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0) with their third touchdown of the opening half, as Robinson returned the loose ball 17 yards into the Shepard end zone.
“That defense is a very good crutch to be leaning on,” Sheehan said. “They’re fun to watch. They just fly, and it’s coming from everywhere.
“[Shepard’s] kids played hard all night. They didn’t give up and kept coming at us, but our defense has played lights-out the last two weeks.”
And when that unit wasn’t scoring points of its own, it was allowing Richards’ offense to set up shop in favorable spots. The Bulldogs spent time in the Astros’ end of the field on five first-half series, but only came away with touchdowns twice.
Tacari Carpenter accounted for both on 9-yard plays. He rushed that distance shortly after Dwayne Jiles (six tackles) intercepted a first-period Shepard pass and then Carpenter caught a 9-yard TD toss from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers.
Richards’ offensive missteps weren’t limited only to the opening half — one second-half series ended abruptly because of a bad snap from center, while another that brought the Bulldogs inside the Astros’ 5 got sidetracked by a fumble. Sheehan thought the latter occurred after receiver Dedrick Shannon was already down, but the coach didn’t dismiss the ’Dogs’ other mistakes because of it.
“It’d be a blown block here, a missed assignment there — we just weren’t executing,” Sheehan said. “Our defense was giving us the ball in great field position, so it should have been a lot bigger [point] margin. We’ve got to take advantage of that.
“When you get a team down, you’ve got to bury them. If you let a team hang around too long, it just gives them confidence.”
Shepard, though, wasn’t about to rally from a three-touchdown deficit. Just to make sure, Ramontay Hill tacked on one more with his 12-yard run in the third quarter.
While the Bulldogs finished with nearly 300 total yards, only 111 of those came on the ground. That, according to Sheehan, must change, and soon.
“We’ve got to establish a running game and get a sustained drive going more often,” he said. “We have home-run hitters, but we need to be able to nickel-and-dime people, too, if we want to do something in the playoffs. We need to give our defense a blow so they’re playing up to their capabilities.
“This is kind of a wake-up call to our offense. We can’t have [negative] things [happen] — you get into a tight ballgame, that can cost you, and we want to control our own destiny.”
Richards will need to have all systems in good working order on Friday, when undefeated Evergreen Park travels to Oak Lawn for a key SSC Red contest. On their last visit to Korhonen Field in 2011, the Mustangs stunned the Bulldogs by administering a 33-0 loss.
“Dan [Hartman]’s one of the best coaches around,” Sheehan said of Evergreen’s third-year leader. “Look at what he’s done with that program.”
Shepard (0-4, 0-2), meanwhile, will attempt to break into the win column for the first time at Reavis’ expense. The Rams are coming off a victory over Eisenhower, but Passolano thinks the Astros can challenge them, especially if Shepard is able duplicate its defensive effort versus Richards.
Khali Mitchell was the Astros’ ringleader with six solo stops, four assists, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Other influential individuals included Raphael Williams (five solos, one assist), Shane Javorski (four solos, two assists, two tackles for loss, forced fumble), Kyle Dye (four solos, one assist) and Keyon Lansdown (two solos, four assists, one tackle for loss, one sack).
In all, Shepard forced the Bulldogs into seven negative-yardage plays.
“There was only one series where they moved on us [very far] and scored,” Passolano said of Richards. “It was real evident that the physicalness of our kids and the tackling was much better [than before]. Defensively, we’re happy with the way kids stepped up — we’ve seen big improvement from Week 1.
“We’re playing a lot of young kids and we’re seeing [overall] improvement. The big thing has been to keep pounding away and pounding away — eventually, we’ll see the results we want.”
Richards 8 14 7 0 - 29
Shepard 0 0 0 0 - 0
First downs 17 —
Yds. rushing 111 42
Yds. passing 181 26
Total yds. 292 68
Att./comp. 26-15 16-6
Fumbles/lost 4-1 2-1
Had intercepted 1 1
Penalties/yds. 8-93 —
Punts/avg. 3-42.0 7-31.3
HLR — Tacari Carpenter, 9-yd. run (Spencer Tears, pass from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers)
HLR — Carpenter, 9-yd. pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Ramontay Hill run)
HLR — Savon Robinson, 17-yd. fumble return (pass failed)
HLR — Hill, 12-yd. run (Shawn Chiaramonte kick)
Richards Rushing: Hill 6-48, Carpenter 6-33, Muhammad-Rogers 8-16, Willett 1-12, Williams 1-2. Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 26-15-181. Receiving: Shannon 5-84, Tears 4-54, Willett 3-13, Carpenter 2-19, Marchione 1-11.
Shepard Rushing: Dye 23-32, E. Williams 7-10. Passing: Javorski 14-6-26, Dye 2-0-0. Receiving: R. Williams 3-20, E. Williams 3-8, Jones 1-(-2).