Lazerus: Govs’ start frustrating for Richards
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 11:16PM
Roy Richards, Head Coach, Morton High School
Updated: October 7, 2012 7:59AM
Roy Richards’ offense was having its way, as it so often has over the years. Big play after big play, eating up chunks of yards with every snap. Finally, on third-and-4, Morton tailback Kendall Huff ripped through the defense, breaking multiple tackles on his way to a 34-yard touchdown run.
And Richards was furious.
Why? Because it came against Morton’s defense during the team’s weekly scrimmage this past Tuesday.
And it’s something Richards has seen happen all too often so far this season.
“Griffith and Lowell probably got 3 or 400 yards of offense on eight plays,” Richards said. “You’re not making the other team work. You can’t win when you do that.”
And Morton didn’t. The Governors — the three-time defending sectional champion Governors, mind you — opened the season with losses to Griffith and Lowell, a pair of teams that are 1-2 on the season. Morton righted the ship a bit last week in a shrug-worthy 47-20 win over an overmatched Clark squad.
It’s been a tough start to swallow for Richards, who said this before the season: “A team’s going to have to be really good to beat us.”
That hasn’t necessarily been the case.
“It’s disappointing,” Richards said. “Your ego hurts. Your pride is bruised. We think we’re better than everybody, and that’s a nice thing to think. But you’ve got to play better than they do.”
Richards is frustrated. Frustrated with an underachieving squad that he feels is as good if not better than his previous powerhouses. But mostly frustrated with a secondary that’s been burned time and again. In the opening 42-35 loss to rival Griffith alone, the Governors watched helplessly as Austin Brown ran for a 74-yard touchdown, threw for an 89-yard touchdown, then ran for a 65-yard touchdown. Then, in a 17-7 loss to Lowell, they allowed George Fields to score on touchdown runs of 77, 43 and 45 yards.
The Governors only have one returning starter in the defensive backfield, junior David Wall. And while he’s been Richards’ rock so far this season — seven different players have been in and out of the lineup as Richards tries to find the right people to stop the bleeding — nobody’s been immune to the coverage breakdowns, the lack of help, and the poor tackling that have led to all the big plays.
It happens every Friday. And it happens every Tuesday, in those knockdown, drag-out, controlled scrimmages, in which the offense gets a point for a first down and three for a touchdown, and the defense gets a point for a stop and three for a turnover.
A tie is the best-case scenario for Richards. This past Tuesday’s score?
Offense 30, Defense 18.
“Our offense scores in chunks on our defense, on big plays that shouldn’t happen,” Richards said. “A guy’s misaligned, or not reading his keys, or covering the wrong guy or doesn’t fill the right gap. We’ve got a lot of inexperience there — a lot of athleticism and a lot of future and potential, but also a lot of mistakes.”
It’s an unusual feeling for Richards, who’s been fortunate to have all that athleticism packaged into a veteran lineup year after year. He’s still got that in his front seven. On his offense, too. He’s got playmakers all over the field.
He needs a couple more, though.
Perhaps most concerning for Morton — which measures seasons not in wins and losses but in trophies — is how weak the schedule is the rest of the way. An Oct. 5 trip to Hobart might be the only challenge the Governors really face over the next six weeks, so Richards won’t really have a great idea of how far his sloppy secondary has come by the time the games that matter roll around.
That makes those Tuesday intrasquad scrimmages more important than ever — maybe even more important than Friday nights for a while.
“The Tuesdays against us are a pretty good measuring stick,” Richards said. “Because we’re pretty good on offense. To me, they’re every bit the evaluation process that a Friday is. Fridays there’s more pressure, and you’re worried more about the score. Tuesdays, you get to isolate on who’s stepping up and who’s earning their spots and who needs to take a seat.”
Richards, of course, is an offensive guy. When he talks about the scrimmages, it’s “them” giving up big plays to “us.” That’s just how he’s wired.
He also cares about the state and local rankings, and the picks in the paper, and the attention and respect his team receives. He doesn’t pretend otherwise. It’s one of the many reasons his players want to work so hard for him.
And while all of that adds to the frustration of a dismal start to the season, it also adds to the challenge — and yes, maybe even to the fun.
“It is frustrating, but if you do a reality check, you realize you’re not in it for your ego, “ he said. “Every time bad things happen, you start to pout — but then you realize that’s why we’re here, we’re supposed to be coaching this. It’s not always a finished product, you’re not always going to make a clean getaway. It’s probably going to continue happening, but not at the rate it was. We’re slowing the bleeding down, but we haven’t stopped it.
“Our team is good, I’m sure of it,” Richards added, almost as if he was trying to convince himself. “I’d rather have a 1-2 team with this type of talent than be 3-0 and sitting on a team that I’m not so sure about. We’re going to keep working at it, and we’re going to be all right.”