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Running back Leshon Williams makes No. 6 Richards special

Fifteen starters are back for the Bulldogs, eight on defense and seven on offense. Senior Javon Robinson is moving from receiver to quarterback.

Richards’ Leshon Williams works through a drill during practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

There was a terrific old-school feel around the Richards football team last season.

The Bulldogs still play on a grass field, which adds some grit to the running game. Sebastian Castro and Leshon Williams took turns punishing opposing defenses with bruising runs, and Richards ripped off 12 consecutive victories.

Castro has moved on to Iowa, but Williams has one more season in Oak Lawn before joining his former teammate in Iowa City. That has expectations very high for the No. 6 Bulldogs.

“We played a lot of juniors throughout the course of last season, got them meaningful time, which is good,’’ Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. ‘‘We thought they were a special group, and they started to mature more and more as the year went on.’’

That group is led by Williams, who recently was ranked the top running back in the area by the Sun-Times. He averaged 9.7 yards a carry last season.

‘‘Being ranked No. 1 means a lot to me, but I have to keep humble and stay grinding,’’ Williams said.

A year ago, Williams was considered a Mid-American Conference-level talent. His spectacular junior season changed that.

‘‘I always felt that I was a Big Ten running back and that I was slept on for a minute,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Everything worked out, but I’m still trying to prove stuff. I have to live up to the hype, so I have a chip on my shoulder. I want to help the team win state this year.’’

Richards fell short of that goal last season, losing 38-35 to Crete-Monee in the Class 6A semifinals.

‘‘We got a lot of experience during that run,’’ Sheehan said. ‘‘They saw what it takes now. They are hungry. They have a bad taste in their mouth with how it ended. Crete-Monee was a good team, but we feel that we kind of blew it.’’

Fifteen starters are back for the Bulldogs, eight on defense and seven on offense. Senior Javon Robinson is moving from receiver to quarterback.

‘‘We just wanted Javon on the field last year, so we moved him to receiver since he was third on the quarterback depth chart,’’ Sheehan said. ‘‘He’s a football player. He was all-conference as a receiver and did a great job. He moved back this year and has really grown and gotten better. From June on, you see the leaps and bounds he’s taken.’’

Expect Richards to pound the ball plenty, but don’t be surprised if the offense opens up a little bit more this season.

‘‘I hope I’ll be able to throw, but I know we have a hell of a running back,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘I’ll just let the coaches coach.’’

‘‘We want to throw the ball; we don’t want to be a one-gimmick team,’’ Sheehan said. ‘‘We know teams are going to try and stack the box. We have to be able to throw, and we trust [Robinson] to make the right decision throwing.’’

Senior defensive end Andre Jefferson Jr. is the key on the other side of the ball.

‘‘The defense is learning that we need to click as one to be great,’’ Jefferson said. ‘‘At the beginning of camp, we weren’t doing so hot. But we’ve been improving.’’

Keep an eye on 6-3, 180-pound senior Damian Evans. Sheehan expects him to step into a lot of the roles Castro played last season.

‘‘He’s one of those players who matured as last year went on, and we had to get him on the field,’’ Sheehan said.

Richards schedule

Aug. 30 at Lincoln-Way Central
Sept. 6 vs. St. Rita
Sept. 13 at Hillcrest
Sept. 20 at Argo
Sept. 27 vs. Evergreen Park
Oct. 4 vs. Reavis
Oct. 11 vs. Oak Lawn
Oct. 18 at Shepard
Oct. 25 at Eisenhower