Photo by Jeff Vorva Anthony Quinn and his Richards teammates have a laugh after a game this year.
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Anthony Quinn and his Richards teammates have a laugh after a game this year.
Surveying the regular season behind him, Richards running back Pat Doyle was unimpressed with a 6-3 mark and a share of the South Suburban Red title, both earned Friday in a 41-0 win over Oak Lawn.
“I feel like we should be a lot better than we are,” he said. “Last week (a 35-7 win over Evergreen Park), we finally showed up a little bit. The defense played great, the offense played great.
“We finally came together — just a little late.”
Reminded he had the playoffs ahead, Doyle paused then said, “Yeah, better late than never.”
The Bulldogs, who at 5-1 shared the league crown with Reavis and Eisenhower, earned a ninth seed and will visit No. 8 Morgan Park at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Gately Stadium in the first round of the Illinois High School Association Class 6A playoffs. A year ago, Richards lost to eventual state runner-up Lemont in the quarterfinals, while in 2013 the Bulldogs themselves finished second, falling in the first 6A title game played at Northern Illinois University.
This year, the championship returns to Huskie Stadium, which may not be as much of an omen for Doyle as it is a reminder. Doyle, who carried 205 times for 1,408 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season — including 21 carries, 153 yards and two scores vs. Oak Lawn — joined that squad for the playoff run as a freshman.
“I just remember how close everyone was on that team, how the older guys brought everyone in and made us feel a part of everything,” he said. “That was a good experience.”
This year’s team? It had it moments of glory and frustration so far.
The 2015 squad struggled early. Only a second-half comeback from 14 points down against Lemont prevented Richards from starting 0-3.
On the other hand, Lemont (8-1) is a No. 3 seed in 6A. And Richards’ losses came to Lincoln-Way North (9-0, seeded No. 1 in 6A), Geneva (8-1, No. 7 in 7A) and Eisenhower (7-2, No. 15 in 7A).
The losses to North and Eisenhower were by a combined eight points, and the Bulldogs led early in both, including a 23-2 halftime advantage against North.
“We’ve put together a couple of good halves, but we haven’t put together a good game yet,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “The losses — we got beat by Geneva. The other two, we lost them.”
Anthony Quinn, who, like Doyle, played in the 2013 playoffs as a freshman, agreed.
“We have to start finishing games off, putting people away,” he said. “I think we still have a lot of potential, but we’ve got to stop putting ourselves in tough situations with penalties and stuff.”
A maturing offensive line should help quarterback Jake Moran and some of the other skill players. Returning tackles Joe Carpenter (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) and Domantas Backus (6-0, 220) have been joined by guards Devonte Ware (5-11, 250) and Nick Mejia (5-11, 240), and center Sultan Benson (6-0, 270) to form a unit Doyle described as “big and physical — and they play together.”
“At the beginning of the year, we were trying to find the pieces,” Sheehan said. “We’ve had them in their spots for the last five weeks, and they’ve really grown as a unit. They are the key.
“Pat, to me, is the best running back in the area. He has the best vision I’ve ever seen from a back at Richards. When the line is clicking, we’re tough.”
How tough? Well, to get back to DeKalb, the Bulldogs would have to wade through a potential second-round rematch with Lincoln-Way North. Lemont is also in their half of the bracket.
“We’ve got a very tough road ahead, but we’re just worried about Morgan Park right now,” Sheehan said. “We’re 6-3. We’ve got to handle our business.
“They’re a big, physical team. They’re aggressive. We’re going to have our hands full.”