By Mark Maxwell
OAK LAWN -– Speed kills. Just ask the Batavia Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs of Richards are coming off of a quality win last Friday night in Batavia. The Battle of the Bulldogs was an absolute thriller. Batavia stormed back in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t quite catch up to the speedy Richards team. The loss broke Batavia’s 20-game regular season home winning streak.
At practice on Wednesday, the players were still buzzing from the big win in a hostile environment.
“It felt like your adrenaline was rushing," senior wide receiver Tacari Carpenter said. "They had a million fans in there. It felt like a college game. Your heart was pumping. You didn't know what was going to happen the next play.”
[RELATED: Richards prevails over Lemont]
The players weren’t the only ones who enjoyed themselves.
Head coach Tony Sheehan and the remainder of his staff were energized by the win.
“It was fun, Batavia had a great crowd,” Sheehan said. “Our kids were juiced up for it. They knew no one likes us and we kind of reveled in that. Richards has been known for not being liked. We're the hated and we're okay with that. We bask in that. We like it. It was a fun atmosphere that I think gave them a little extra giddy-up. It was a fun game.”
The extra giddy-up to which Sheehan referred was highlighted in the first play from scrimmage.
Carpenter took a bubble screen 78 yards to pay dirt and afterward provided on-the-field analysis of his touchdown scamper.
“The linebacker from Batavia came too slow,” he said. “I just burst out of my cut as soon as I got the ball and just ran for a touchdown. He just came too slow. He didn't sprint.”
The Bulldogs’ up-tempo offense is driven by Hasan Muhammad-Rogers.
The quarterback speaks very highly about the talented playmakers in his huddle.
“We have some really tremendous athletes this year,” Muhammad-Rogers said. “We got Tacari (Carpenter), Ryan (Willett), Spencer (Tears) so we got some really good athletes. It's pretty easy when you can throw a bubble screen to Tacari and he can run 78 yards for a touchdown. Throwing a pass across the middle for little Ryan or throwing it up for big Spence. He's real tall so he can go up and get it. We got some real good athletes and they make things much easier for the coaches doing the play calling and for the offensive line. It makes things go real smooth for us.”
Muhammad-Rogers and Carpenter share a special chemistry together.
During practice, they connected on multiple passes deeper than 40 yards downfield. Each time, Muhammad-Rogers led Carpenter perfectly as he was able to haul in the deep ball without ever breaking stride.
After practice, Carpenter talked about his connection with his quarterback.
“I love my quarterback,” Carpenter said. “He plays with heart. He plays with passion. He goes out there to win. He's going to play his heart out. If he messes up, he's cries and lets it all out, but he goes out there on the next drive and plays hard. I love my quarterback.”
Muhammad-Rogers leads the way for a very solid junior class at Richards. The class of 2015 went 18-0 throughout their freshman and sophomore seasons. Even though lower-level success doesn’t automatically materialize into varsity wins, their unblemished record is certainly impressive.
The Bulldogs hope the momentum from last week carries over into a big game at Lemont (1-1) on Friday night.
The two teams will face off in a grudge match after Lemont knocked Richards out of the playoffs last season. Lemont won the turnover battle in last year’s contest. As often is the case, turnovers dictate the outcome of the game. Coach Sheehan has worked closely with his players this week to stress the importance of ball security.
Tears remembers last year’s loss vividly.
“They knocked us out of the playoffs last year. Coach has been preaching revenge all week,” Tears said. “We all know that that wasn't supposed to happen. There's nothing more really to say. We’re just ready to ball. That's what we're going to do Friday night.”
Sheehan feels confident about their chances with Lemont this time around.
“I have been around Richards football for a long time. Overall, I would have to say this is the fastest team in program history,” Sheehan said. “Defensive linemen are running 4.6 this year. Guys are doing things with the ball that you can't teach. They're magic and electric.”
This will be the second consecutive week that Richards plays a challenging away game. Should they pull out a win Friday night, they will become the team to beat throughout the remainder of the season.
Richards ends the regular season on October 25th at Eisenhower (2-0), their South Suburban Red Conference foes. Richards and Eisenhower are currently ranked first and second in their conference.