By Jason Maholy
The Richards defense found itself in an eerily familiar spot late in the Bulldogs game against South Suburban Red rival Evergreen Park.
One week prior, Eisenhower had scored with 16 seconds left to pull out a victory in a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle.
This time, the Mustangs had converted a first down on third-and-14 from the 50, then followed that up with another chunk play to get the ball to the Richards 13.
But there would be no heartbreak this time — not for the Bulldogs, at least. A sack on second down set Evergreen Park back to the 25, a heave to the end zone on fourth down fell incomplete, and Richards escaped with a 27-21 win.
The Bulldogs improved to 3-2. The Mustangs fell to 2-3.
Richards junior Travis Garmon scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 39-yard run with 4:07 remaining in the game. Sophomore playmaker Donnie Burton returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown and caught a 31-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Owen Novak. The latter also had a 12-yard touchdown scramble on a broken play that began with a botched shotgun snap.
Burton finished with three receptions for 73 yards.
Evergreen Park junior Michael Torres had a juggling 14-yard touchdown catch and a seven-yard touchdown run, the latter which knotted the game at 21 with 6:08 to play. Senior wide receiver Matt Walsh scored on a 40-yard catch-and-run and made multiple clutch catches that prolonged drives.
Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan was proud of how his team responded after the loss to Eisenhower. Despite falling to the Cardinals in agonizing fashion, Sheehan saw his young Bulldogs make significant strides in defeat.
The loss was followed by what he said was the team’s best week of practice this season.
“I really thought we grew up last week,” he said. “We played hard and I think we gave them the game, to be honest. It’s a play here, a play there … and that’s what eats at you all week.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get kicked down, you’ve got to lose to make things right, and these guys are growing up. We’re learning and I’m very proud of them. The last two weeks we fought, and this week we got the win.”
“They kept fighting. That’s what Bulldogs football is built on is keep fighting.”
The young Bulldogs are a work in progress on both sides of the ball, but as the season has progressed so have both units. Garmon, who plays defensive back and wide receiver, had arguably his best game of the season against the Mustangs. In addition to his long touchdown run he made multiple plays that helped thwart Evergreen Park drives.
“He’s got more athletic ability than most,” Sheehan said. “He’s just got to stay focused. When he stays focused he can play, and obviously tonight he came to play.”
Burton, meanwhile, has been a revelation. The sophomore transfer from Eisenhower has solidified his role as the Bulldogs’ top offensive threat, whether he lines up at running back, receiver or quarterback.
His punt return to open the scoring was a thing of beauty, as he corralled a high-hopping ball, ran to his right, found a seam and outrun everyone down the right sideline to the end zone. His touchdown catch came on a contested ball that was tipped by Evergreen Park junior defensive back Alonzo Newsome.
“He’s electric, and he’s only a sophomore,” Sheehan said. “He’s going to be scary.”