Bulldogs continue surge by blasting Spartans
This time, there was no doubt.
When Richards and Oak Lawn met last fall, a projected mismatch never occurred. Despite the fact the teams were traveling in different directions from a win-loss standpoint, the Spartans rendered the discrepancies moot by going toe-to-toe with their more heralded cross-town neighbor.
The Bulldogs did win, but by just 11 points and only after surviving a scoreless second half. So when Oak Lawn arrived at Korhonen Field for another encounter Friday night, Richards coach Tony Sheehan didn’t want his guys assuming circumstances would be any different.
But they definitely were. The Bulldogs saw to that by tallying five times in the opening half while holding the Spartans without a first down, and then completing a rout by crossing the goal line twice more after intermission.
Richards’ resounding 45-0 South Suburban Conference Red victory was the latest in a growing list of dominant performances as it steams toward the Class 6A playoffs. The Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1) have outscored their last three opponents by a combined 112-0 margin.
“Anytime you can shut out a team three weeks in a row, you’re doing well,” Sheehan said. “The defense has been showing what they’re made of. For us to do what we did [the last three games] is a credit to our kids and our staff.
“Our defense has been locked in and it’s fun to watch. It’s a nice crutch to lean on.”
Richards has not been scored on since it suffered a 35-34 loss to Evergreen Park in Week 5, its lone blemish to date.
“It was one bad night, but I think they’ve got a chip on their shoulders [because of that],” Sheehan said of his athletes. “They definitely got [ticked] off and they’ve got a little bit of their swagger back. Our juniors are playing a lot faster and the sky’s the limit for them.
“And we’ve been getting a little healthier, which is good. We haven’t had every one of our starters [in the lineup] since the second week against Batavia.”
The Bulldogs were still down three regulars here, but that didn’t seem to matter as the Spartans (2-6, 2-4) managed to cross midfield only twice. Neither of those series advanced Oak Lawn into the red zone, and one of them materialized because of a Richards fumble.
The Spartans wound up with just 69 total yards, all but 3 of which were garnered on the ground. Ray Howard’s 44 rushing yards on nine carries was Oak Lawn’s best individual performance.
“Our offense has struggled the last few weeks, but we embarrassed ourselves,” said Spartans coach Sean Lucas, whose squad ran just 16 offensive plays in the first 24 minutes.
“That’s the only way to put it. Their speed got us and they stonewalled us, and we didn’t keep our defensive team off the field [enough].”
Among the Bulldogs’ prevention-side stars were Romel Hill (12 total tackles), Ramonta Hill (10), Savon Robinson (eight tackles, two pass breakups, fumble recovery) and Dwayne Jiles (six stops). Robinson’s recovery of a ball knocked loose by Nick DeMarco set up Richards’ first TD of the second half, which quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogers notched with his 43-yard bootleg.
That six-pointer expanded the hosts’ edge to 39-0 and satisfied Sheehan, who didn’t want his athletes to simply go through the motions during the final 24 minutes.
“You’re feeling good [before that], but at the same time, you want your team to have that killer instinct,” he said. “You want to put that nail in the coffin.”
Muhammad-Rogers had tallied on a 4-yard keeper in the opening half following a 53-yard burst by Ryan Willet, and the junior quarterback also threw a 21-yard scoring strike to Tacari Carpenter. Spencer Tears hit the end zone twice on runs of 2 and 15 yards — the latter coming on a reverse — and Chrishawn Ross scored on a 1-yard plunge immediately after Dedrick Shannon hauled in a 34-yard pass from Muhammad-Rogers.
Shannon accounted for the home team’s final touchdown of the night on a 59-yard sprint in the fourth quarter.
A vivid illustration of Oak Lawn’s misfortune was seen between Richards’ third and fourth TDs, which were connected by the hosts’ recovery of their own, unintentional onsides kick. Lucas, however, felt the Spartans’ downfall was traceable to something far more basic.
“We didn’t tackle well,” he said, “and we blocked even worse. You leave those two things at home and you’re not going to beat anybody, let alone a good team. And they’re a good team.
“It actually mirrored the game two years ago at Richards. We have to get over [any fear of] the black jerseys and gold helmets, but we’re trying to change the mind-set of 49 kids.”
Scott Quinn (five solo tackles, two assists, one sack), Joe Dodaro (four solos, four assists), Ahmad Zain-Al Dean (four solos, three assists, forced fumble) and Howard (three solos, three assists) were Oak Lawn’s best players on the prevention side. Ryne Melnik intercepted a Muhammad-Rogers pass.
While his own club had no trouble vanquishing the Spartans, Sheehan didn’t believe Oak Lawn’s lopsided loss was an accurate reflection of its capabilities.
“They’re probably one of the best 2-6 teams around,” he said. “They’re very disciplined and play very well — Sean does a great job with them. If a couple balls bounce the other way, they’re sitting at 4-4 or 5-3.”
Instead, the Spartans will close up shop on their 2013 season Friday night versus Bremen in an SSC crossover contest. The Braves currently sit atop the Blue Division.
“Bremen’s tough and resilient, so we don’t have time to dwell on [this setback],” Lucas said. “It was a teachable game [against Richards], and we’re going to address the issues we had and try to get them fixed.”
Although Oak Lawn hasn’t generated the sort of on-field success Lucas had hoped to witness, he’s still sad to see his upperclassmen departing soon.
“It’s too bad the season’s ending [because] I like this group,” Lucas said. “There’s a lot of great kids and I’ll be sorry to see them go.”
The ’Dogs wind up their regular-season slate Friday against District 218 sister school Eisenhower in Blue Island. While Richards’ berth in the 6A tournament is secure, the Cardinals need one more win to become playoff eligible.
“We’re approaching this as playoff week No. 1,” Sheehan said. “We learned in 2009 that one loss can change the whole setup, so we’re trying to improve that seed and our playoff stock.”
Oak Lawn 0 0 0 0 - 0
Richards 6 26 7 6 - 45
First downs 2 14
Yds. rushing 66 278
Yds. passing 3 145
Total yds. 69 423
Att./comp. 15-1 20-10
Fumbles/lost 1-1 2-2
Had intercepted 0 1
Penalties/yds. — 6-55
Punts/avg. — 3-32.0
HLR — Spencer Tears, 2-yd. run (kick failed)
HLR — Hasan Muhammad-Rogers, 4-yd. run (Shawn Chiaramonte kick)
HLR — Tacari Carpenter, 21-yd. pass from Muhammad-Rogers (Chiaramonte kick)
HLR — Tears, 15-yd. run (kick failed)
HLR — Chrishawn Ross, 1-yd. run (kick failed)
HLR — Muhammad-Rogers, 43-yd. run (Chiaramonte kick)
HLR — Dedrick Shannon, 59-yd. run (kick failed)
Oak Lawn Rushing: Howard 9-44, Norvell 11-15, McCarthy 2-2, Lach 1-2, Wagner 1-2, Gipson 2-1. Passing: Lach 12-1-3, Wagner 3-0-0. Receiving: Wagner 1-3.
Richards Rushing: Muhammad-Rogers 10-58, Shannon 2-56, Willett 1-53, Ross 7-49, Hill 7-29, Tears 6-27, Carpenter 2-4, McClellan 2-2. Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 18-8-128, Tears 2-2-17. Receiving: Carpenter 3-55, Tears 3-23, Shannon 2-43, Willett 1-16, Marchione 1-8.