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It’s football fever at Richards High School

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Updated: December 30, 2013 11:58AM



The place to be in Oak Lawn on Wednesday afternoon was the gymnasium at Richards High School. And if you weren’t wearing black and gold, shame on you.

There, the entire student body, much of it clad in the colors of the day, attended a pep rally for the school’s football team that is one win away from the Class 6A state championship.

Richards plays Batavia at 1 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. Both teams are 12-1.

Batavia’s lone loss was at the hands of — drum roll, please — none other than Richards, back in September. Richards won 31-26, breaking Batavia’s 20-game winning streak in the process, and probably providing plenty of inspiration for Batavia.

Emotions were at a fever pitch in the gym Wednesday with students loudly cheering when the football team was introduced, when cheerleaders and poms did routines, and when the band played the Richards fight song.

It was one of those feel-good moments that roll around now and then, one that wasn’t lost on head coach Tony Sheehan, who graduated from Richards in 1996.

Nine coaches in the football program are Richards alums.

With his 14-month-old son Brayden perched on his left arm, Sheehan talked in glowing terms of the pep rally and his team.

“This is for the kids. It’s a great way to send them off. It’s all about the kids. It’s a special group. I hope we can pull this out for them. It’s a lot of hard work and they deserve it,” Sheehan said.

This is Richards’ fourth time in a state title game. Richards won state in back-to-back seasons 24 and 25 years ago, but lost in 2001, Sheehan said, adding, “We’re hoping to get us back on that mountaintop.”

The success is due to the “hard work the kids put in and our amazing staff,” he said.

The team began working on the 2013 season soon after the 2012 season ended by putting in long hours in the weight room, All-State linebacker Romel Hill said. That led to two-a-days in the summer sun and endless hours of practice.

Hill, a senior, beamed when asked about the pep rally.

“They did it all for us. It’s great, great,” Hill said.

He predicts a victory, of course.

“We have a team that’s a family and we have a great coaching staff. That’s how we win,” Hill said.

All-State junior quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogers has large hands. Maybe that’s why he was able to throw for 258 yards and four touchdowns in Richards’ 31-26 win at Batavia in September.

“I can do it all. I can do what the coaches want. If they need me to run, I can run. Pass? I can pass,” he said.

Hill is glad he’s not trying to defend against his teammate.

“It would be pretty hard because he can throw that ball. He’s got speed, too, so it would be pretty hard to cover him,” Hill said.

Muhammad-Rogers is not low on confidence. In fact, when asked about Richards’ chances, he sounded like Joe Namath, who boldly predicted and delivered a Super Bowl win long before these players were born.

“We’re not going out there to lose. We’re going to go out with a bang,” Muhammad-Rogers said with a smile. “Everybody put their life on hold for this.”

He’s not kidding.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, when many classmates still figure to be sleeping, the Richards football team will be gathering for practice. State title chances don’t come around that often.



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