Football: Richards should rebound to familiar heightsRichards quarterback Tommy Mister makes a pass during the Richards 7-on-7 camp Saturday, June 16, 2012, at the District 218 ADM Fields in Oak Lawn. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
One in an occasional series on Southland athletes and teams gearing up for the 2012-13 high school season.
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:03AM
Bouncing back is a relative term.
For many schools, 6-4 with a playoff berth is a season to be celebrated. At Richards, it marks one of the two worst football seasons in the Oak Lawn school’s last 27.
So, Richards is looking to bounce back in 2012. And, as evidenced by fifth-year coach Tony Sheehan’s words at Saturday’s 7-on-7 camp hosted by the school, he’s expecting a high bounce, indeed.
“This is probably our best team on paper, but paper and potential don’t mean anything,” Sheehan said. “We’re going to have to come to work every day. We’re really excited with the way guys work and get after each other.”
Leading the workouts is Tommy Mister, a 6-foot, dual-threat quarterback with a cannon for an arm. Mister oozes athleticism, as evidenced by his early offers from Illinois, Notre Dame and Indiana.
“My mobility is my best asset. I can run with the best of them,” Mister said. “I have a strong arm, but I’m not accurate. You can ask coach Sheehan, though — I’ve been working my butt off to improve on it.”
As a sophomore in 2011, Mister led the varsity to a 6-4 record. It was just his second year under center after playing quarterback for the first time as a freshman. Mister recognizes the learning curve of the position, and he was quick to critique his play, specifically his decision making.
“I ran a little bit too much last season, but I’m studying and feel like I’m getting smarter,” he said. “I’ve been working on my checkdowns. When I see a defense roll into a certain coverage, I can check into anything and hurt them in multiple ways.”
Sheehan witnessed Mister’s improved decision-making as the season progressed. Richards went 4-2 in its final six games, including a first-round playoff victory over Hyde Park before exiting to Hubbard the following week.
“We threw him to the wolves last year with early tough games against Morris and Lemont,” Sheehan said. “We were 2-3 to start, but he bounced back, and by the end of the year he was a different quarterback with his decision-making.
“We’re expecting him to grow in leaps and bounds this year, and you can see last year’s experience has really helped him. He just makes plays for us. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.”
While Mister and the offense will garner the majority of headlines, Richards’ strength resides in the heart of its defense. Returning linebackers Romel Hill, DiAndre Smith and Andrew Venerable made a splash last season starting as sophomores, with all earning all-conference nods. Their additional experience should bolster a deep defensive unit.
“Those three linebackers are all fast, and they’ve added strength in the offseason,” Sheehan said. “We’re expecting our defense to be the backbone of the team.”
Mister credited the Richards defense for not only for keeping the team in games, but also for his development as a quarterback.
“Those (linebackers) were great for us last year. They can stop the run, drop into pass coverage, do everything we need,” he said. “I asked the defense to go hard on me in practice; they really get after me.
“They were the reason we competed in half our games last year. Our offense wouldn’t always click in the first half and those guys kept us in games.”