High School Football: Shepard beats Richards for first time in 27 seasons
By Steve Millar
There was still more than 1 ½ quarters left to play in the game, but when Shepard senior defensive back Jalen Smith intercepted a pass and raced into the end zone, he knew it was finally happening: The Astros were going to beat district rival Richards.
“When I scored, I was like, ‘It’s over,’” Smith said. “I felt good. That was to seal the deal. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. As a senior, this really means a lot to me.”
Smith’s touchdown gave Shepard a 32-point lead and put the exclamation point on a stunningly lopsided 42-8 victory over the Bulldogs in a South Suburban Red game on March 26.
The game was played at fellow District 218 school Eisenhower because the Shepard and Richards fields are undergoing improvements.
It was the first win for Shepard (1-1, 1-0) over Richards (1-1, 1-1) since 1993, snapping a 15-game losing streak in the series. It was also the Bulldogs’ first loss to a Red opponent since falling to Eisenhower in 2016.
“It’s kind of like Lovie Smith when he got the Bears job and he came in and said that goal No. 1 was to beat the Packers,” Shepard coach John Rone said. “When I got this job, I said goal No. 1 was to beat Richards. To be the champ, you have to beat the champ. We beat the champ.”
The disastrous night for Richards began immediately, when the Bulldogs fumbled the opening kickoff and Shepard’s RaSand Hall Jr. recovered it. That was the first of six Richards turnovers.
The next time the Bulldogs got the ball, Hall came up with an interception, setting up a 50-yard touchdown run by junior Kendrick Washington to get Shepard on the board.
With the Astros coming off a 41-7 loss to Lemont in their season opener — and considering their history against Richards — the fast start provided an important confidence boost.
“Last week was tough,” Washington said of the blowout loss to Lemont. “We dealt with a lot of adversity and we came out and did our job this week. We weren’t expected to win, but we just knew we had to do whatever it took.
“This is a family. This is not just a team. These are my brothers.”
Washington finished with 177 yards on 10 carries. His two touchdowns included an 83-yarder in the second quarter.
That run came on the first offensive play after Richards got on the board via a 22-yard touchdown pass from James Burford to Alex Rico, and a two-point conversion pass from Burford to Ethan O’Dea.
The Bulldogs had pulled within 17-8, only to have Washington immediately push the lead up to 24-8.
Astros sophomore quarterback Quran McClellan was just 4-for-14 passing, but he threw for 111 yards and hit fellow sophomore Elijah Tyson for touchdowns of 20 and 65 yards.
Tyson hauled in three catches for 110 yards.
“They also made some youthful mistakes,” Rone said of his players. “But they showed the mental toughness to keep going and then the big plays came. It’s exciting.”
Sophomore Xavier Rodgers ran for 85 yards on 13 carries for the Astros.
Kamari Gray had an interception, while Sikiel Graves had two sacks for Shepard.
For Richards, Jadon Wilson ran for 94 yards on 26 carries. Jordan Tooles had an interception.
“I’m proud of everyone in this program,” Rone said. “I’m proud of these boys and these coaches. They did it.”