Evergreen Park running back Antonio Clay-Jones had a game-high 111 yards rushing in a 27-7 loss to Richards on Sept. 16. Photo by Steve Metsch

Evergreen Park running back Antonio Clay-Jones had a game-high 111 yards rushing in a 27-7 loss to Richards on Sept. 16. Photo by Steve Metsch

Football: Fast start helps Richards top Evergreen Park

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By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Richards had a chip on its shoulder coming into its homecoming game against Evergreen Park.

The Bulldogs were not happy being 1-2 entering the game, while the Mustangs came in 3-0.

Regardless of those records, the Bulldogs are the perennial favorites in the South Suburban Red, and it was time to send a message.

They did, in convincing fashion.

Richards (2-2, 2-0) scored three touchdowns in the first 10 minutes and the defense held strong in a 27-7 victory over Evergreen Park (3-0, 1-1).

“The conference always runs through us,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan said.

Evergreen Park Head Coach Jerry Verde said falling into an early 20-0 hole was tough to overcome.

“You can’t spot a team like Richards — a well-coached team — 20 points and expect to make a roaring comeback,” Verde said. “I’m proud of the kids, the way we battled. It would be the easiest thing in the world to be down 20-0 and roll over. And we didn’t do that.”

Two of Richards’ first-quarter scores came via the accurate arm of senior quarterback Joe Mayo. He started the barrage with 9:53 left in the first quarter when he hit senior receiver Donnie Burton over the middle for a 26-yard score.

After Evergreen Park punted, senior running back Michael Maura made it 14-0 with a 19-yard touchdown run with 4:44 left in the first.

Another fizzled Evergreen Park drive gave Richards the ball at its own 48, and four plays later Mayo found Terangie Eskridge from 32 yards out for a 20-o lead with 2:17 to play in the first quarter.

Eskridge led Richards with 94 yards on five catches.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Mayo, who had not thrown three TD passes in a game since youth football. “I just threw it up and trusted my receivers.”

Football EP Richards D Burton scaled

Richards’ Donnie Burton makes a catch before eluding Evergreen Park safety Max Manso for a touchdown. Photo by Steve Metsch

One receiver was all smiles.

“It was a good game,” Burton said. “I think we should have put up more points. Now we’re 2-2. It feels great.”

Like any good receiver, Burton knew who to thank.

“He’s a great quarterback,” he said of Mayo, who was 16-for-32 for 263 yards. “He reads the defense. He reacts to it.”

The Bulldogs’ sizzling start, as dazzling as a the 10-minute fireworks show at halftime, was as Sheehan scripted it.

“We came out and we thought we could throw the ball a bit,” Sheehan said. “We just didn’t put them away. We’ve got to learn how to put somebody away.”

The Bulldogs defense allowed 68 total yards on three running plays to open the second half. Evergreen Park junior running back Antonio Clay-Jones, who started the drive with a 23-yard run, capped it with a 25-yard touchdown run.

“We missed tackles,” Sheehan said. “We’ve got to get back to fundamentals this week in tackling and blocking. If we can do that, we can be a good team.”

Clay-Jones led the Mustangs with 111 yards on 19 carries. Senior Frankie Plunkett rushed nine times for 57 yards.

“They run hard,” Verde said of his running backs. “They’re real hard to tackle once they get past the line. Usually, the first hit doesn’t take them down.”

Another running threat was junior quarterback Deijon Feliciano, who ran six times for 78 yards. He struggled throwing, however, finishing 5-of-19 for 40 yards with four interceptions.

Trailing 20-0 late in the first half, Evergreen Park appeared ready to score after an 89-yard drive. But Feliciano’s pass into the end-zone was intercepted by Eskridge.

The Richards defense was coming off a game in which they recovered a fumble and picked off four passes in a win over Eisenhower.

“We’ve got some ballhawks back there,” Sheehan said.

Richards closed the scoring with Mayo’s third TD pass, a 11-yard strike to sophomore Miles Mitchell for a 27-7 lead with 8:57 left in the third quarter.

Mitchell had a busy night with 23 yards on nine carries and 56 yards on four receptions.

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