By Jeff Vorva
Because he is prone to making dramatic and spectacular plays on both offense and defense, Shepard football player Kendrick Washington finds himself to be the center of attention.
But there was a time in his career when he was the center.
As a youth, Washington was bigger than almost all of the 7- and 8-year-olds in the Robbins Eagles football organization. His coach, Justin Harris, had him anchor the middle.
“I started him as a center, but when I saw him running and running sprints and beating everyone, I said ‘let me try this kid out at running back,’” Harris said. “I saw the talent then.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound junior had two first-quarter interceptions and rushing touchdowns in the first and third quarters of Saturday’s 28-0 South Suburban Conference Red victory over Evergreen Park on a rainy day in Blue Island. The game was played at Eisenhower because of renovations being made to Shepard’s field in Palos Heights.
Harris and Washington are together again, as Harris is the Astros’ running backs and cornerbacks coach. Washington said he is glad he is able to contribute as a skill player.
“It wasn’t that much fun playing on the line,” he said, recalling his youth football days. “But I had to do what I could to help the team. Always a team player.”
Washington’s first pickoff came in the end zone as Evergreen Park (2-2) was knocking on the door. The second came on the third play of EP’s next drive, and he took it back to the Mustangs’ 5-yard line and scored one play later.
“That first one, I was off – I wasn’t really disciplined on that play,” he said. “But I saw the ball coming and got the pick. The second one, I read my keys and I was disciplined on that one.”
On offense, Washington finished with 80 yards on 12 carries and added two catches for 43 yards. Sophomore quarterback Quran McClellan threw for 140 yards and a touchdown to Jalen Smith (seven catches, 84 yards), and ran for another score.
Aside from Washington’s two interceptions, Kamari Gray add a pickoff, Justin Gavin had a fumble recovery, and Evan Lipinski, Zevik Krusza and Sean O’Connell were in on big stops.
Evergreen Park couldn’t find the end zone, but had lengthy drives of 13 and 11 plays in the second half. Junior running back James Williams ran 15 times for 67 yards and junior quarterback Devin Turner threw for 77 yards, including a 40-yard completion to Matt Walsh in the first quarter.
Shepard (3-1) in in the driver’s seat for an SSC Red title. The Astros are scheduled to visit Oak Lawn Friday and will visit Reavis for the final game of this COVID-abbreviated season. The game versus Reavis was initially scheduled to be played at Eisenhower, but Shepard agreed to move it to Burbank so the Rams could honor the late Mike “Mavs” Mavraganes, who played and coached at Reavis.
Grin and Bear It
Shepard coach John Rone was named the Chicago Bears Coach of Week 2 after the Astros recovered from a 41-7 season-opening loss to Lemont to beat Richards 42-8. It was the first time the Astros had beaten the Bulldogs in 27 years.
Even without a postseason, Rone is happy with the spring campaign.
“We would love to re-play that first game,” he said. “The way our kids have bounced back and have taken care of business in our district, I am definitely pleased. I love the way these guys have fought through it. I like how they worked hard on their own during the pandemic in the fall and winter.
“That’s what got us here.”