Despite state title loss, Richards looks ahead
DE KALB — The expressions were grim.
When a handful of Richards football players were awarded the second-place trophy on a portable stage after finishing as state runner-up in Class 6A football, disappointment was etched in some of their faces.
The trophy was brought down off the stage to the rest of the team, but there was no hooting or hollering accompanying the act, nor was the trophy raised over players’ heads. It was merely a matter of quiet acceptance.
Batavia, a team the Bulldogs had defeated in Week 2 of the regular season, denied them a state championship by making off with a 34-14 victory Saturday afternoon at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium. Richards (12-2) was making its first state appearance since 2001 and was seeking its third-ever crown.
The Bulldogs captured back-to-back titles in 1988 and ’89 while going undefeated both seasons.
While Richards’ present-day players fell just short of reaching the mountaintop and were understandably upset, junior quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogers was able to reflect positively on a memorable campaign once the loss had soaked in.
“It was fun — it was really fun,” he said. “We had a lot of success during different points in the season. Everyone worked so hard.
“Coming off the field last year [following a 23-19 second-round loss to Lemont], we said this year that we didn’t want to end the season with a loss. We did end the season with a loss, but it was here in the championship and not the second round, like we usually did.
“I believe we did put the school back on the map. Everyone knows we can play football here, so we need to keep working hard and we’ll be there again.”
The Bulldogs’ stubborn defense was put to the test right away, as Batavia’s first five full possessions resulted in touchdowns. The only time Batavia didn’t reach Richards’ end zone during that stretch was at the end of the opening half, when quarterback Micah Coffey took a knee on his team’s lone snap of that particular series.
In its first 13 contests this season, Richards had posted six shutouts and held two other foes to six points. Only Evergreen Park had topped the 30-point mark against the Bulldogs, doing so in Week 5 en route to a 35-34 win.
Four of Batavia’s TDs occurred before intermission, including a 96-yard Coffey-to-Michael Moffatt aerial strike that put the Bulldogs into a 14-0 hole. Batavia’s possession began at the 2 after Richards punter Shawn Chiaramonte had his kick downed there.
Also hurting the Bulldogs was their own failure to capitalize on a prime scoring opportunity late in the second period. Trailing 28-7 at the time, Richards drove down to the Batavia 3-yard line, but could not punch the ball across the goal line.
“I don’t know if that was deflating, but momentum-wise, if we scored we go into halftime down two touchdowns,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan. “But getting down there and not scoring really hurt us.
“Hats off to [Batavia] — they did a great job. We couldn’t make that play when we needed to.”
Despite the lopsided final score, Richards amassed 389 yards. Muhammad-Rogers threw for 226 yards on an 18-of-41 performance, which included a touchdown toss to Dedrick Shannon. Shannon had eight catches in all for 112 yards.
Romeo Johnson paced the ground attack with 97 yards on seven carries, while Muhammad-Rogers added 65 yards on 16 totes and accounted for the Bulldogs’ other score. However, Muhammad-Rogers was also sacked three times and threw three interceptions.
Coffey’s 229 yards on 15-of-18 passing led Batavia (13-1), which totaled 451 yards. Moffatt had six receptions for 127 yards. Running back Anthony Scaccia gave Batavia’s offense good balance by rushing for 189 yards and three TDs on 33 carries.
The setback Richards doled out to Batavia in September featured the locals racing out to a 31-13 lead and then hanging on for a five-point triumph. Batavia’s loss was its first in the regular season since 2010.
“They brought a little more pressure against us this time,” Sheehan said “We kind of expected it. We just couldn’t make the plays when we had to.”
Lucas White and Romel Hill both had eight tackles to lead the Bulldogs’ defense, and White also intercepted a Coffey pass.
Richards 0 7 7 0 - 14
Batavia 14 14 6 0 - 34
First downs 18 21
Yds. rushing 163 222
Yds. passing 226 229
Total yds. 389 451
Att./comp. 41-18 18-15
Fumbles/lost 1-0 1-1
Had intercepted 3 1
Penalties/yds. 6-40 4-29
Punts/avg. 1-31.0 1-29.0
BAT — Anthony Scaccia, 1-yd. run (Howie Morgano kick)
BAT — Michael Moffatt, 96-yd. pass from Micah Coffey (Morgano kick)
HLR — Dedrick Shannon, 9-yd. pass from Hasan Muhammad-Rogers (Shawn Chiaramonte kick)
BAT — Rourke Mullins, 25-yd. pass from Coffey (Morgano kick)
BAT — Scaccia, 1-yd. run (Morgano kick)
BAT — Scaccia, 12-yd. run (kick failed)
HLR — Muhammad-Rogers, 4-yd. run (Chiaramonte kick)
Richards Rushing: Johnson 7-97, Muhammad-Rogers 16-65, Carpenter 1-1. Passing: Muhammad-Rogers 41-18-226. Receiving: Shannon 8-112, Willett 4-27, Tears 4-21, Carpenter 2-66.
Batavia Rushing: Scaccia 33-189, Coffey 8-20, Green 5-13, Moneghini 1-0. Passing: Coffey 18-15-229. Receiving: Moffatt 6-127, Scaccia 4-33, Zwart 2-28, Green 2-16, Mullins 1-25.