FREE: 10GM with Tony Sheehan

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2013 Coach of the Year? No question Oak Lawn Richards head coach Tony Sheehan was a very viable candidate after leading Richards to a 12-2 record and a Class 6A state title appearance. Sheehan sits down and gives us 10 Good Minutes. Sheehan, who took over the head coaching job from Hall of Fame coach Gary Korhonen in 2008 has posted 48-19 record at Richards and will enter his 7th season in 2014.
EDGYTIM: Talk about the 2013 season. I know it was a heck of a ride and you didn't finish it the way you wanted to but up until the state final game you had to be pretty happy how the season worked out.
Tony Sheehan: Yeah it was a great season. Obviously on that day (Class 6A state finals) it didn't work out the way we wanted. They (Batavia) just outplayed us and sometimes it's just not your day. We were a little beat up that day and really the last few weeks. Looking back we might of had some guys who probably shouldn't of been out there but they were not gonna miss the state championship. I'm not making any excuses and Batavia played very well and they simply beat us. It was a great run. To go down to East St. Louis (Class 6A semifinals) and to get a victory was amazing and not too many people can do that. The Lincoln-Way North game was just an outstanding football game and the weather conditions for that game were just horrendous. You are trying to play for the wind and the rain and to pull that win out in double overtime was awesome. We lose a lot of emotional leaders but we also bring a lot of guys back for next year as well. We are definitely happy about 2013 and looking forward to 2014.
EDGYTIM: When talking about going into the state final game banged up, I have already talked to Rome[l (Hill) and Hasan (Muhammed-Rogers) about it. They both said that the season was a marathon. They both didn't really realize it until the season was over how much of a physical toll it takes just getting to a state title game. Did you realize that your almost surviving more than thriving at that time of the season?
Tony Sheehan: Definitely. Until you actually live it people tell you about the grind but to get that far in the state playoffs is a real accomplishment. Obviously we aren't satisfied with losing and we want to get back now and win that thing. But to get there you have to play five weeks in the state playoffs and you're right it's a marathon. Guys are banded up here and banged up there and your trying to survive. After that East St. Louis game we were lucky to get out with as many healthy kids as we did because that was such a physical game. You wish you were healthier going into the state finals but it is what it is. Our guys were ready come game day and they played their hearts out. You've gotta give it to Batavia.
EDGYTIM: Going back to the state title game, leading up to that it just looked and felt like Batavia just hit another gear in the state playoffs. They just seemed to be a team that got on a roll.
Tony Sheehan: There was no doubt. They were definitely healthy and they took it to another level. They got on a roll and to go up to Rockford and beat Boylan the way they beat them was impressive. That just doesn't happen very often. We knew Batavia was getting better as the year wore on and they played their best football at the right time of the season.
EDGYTIM: Talk about that East St. Louis game and that whole experience of traveling down and playing the Flyers in the semifinals.
Tony Sheehan: It was an awesome experience. Going down there is a trip within itself and a grind. We stopped down about halfway and ate and then we got the kids moving around a bit then got them back on the bus. Once we got into East St. Louis they had some great people down there. Everyone was very nice and they have a great facility. It was just a war down there and just the atmosphere made it a great place to play. It was a defensive struggle. They have some great, great players and we were lucky to get out of there with a win to be honest it was that close. We knew our defense was pretty good and they showed up that day. Our defense really carried us and we knew their defense was also really good. Thankfully we got out of there with the win.
EDGYTIM: Who would be the one player that really stepped up and made a big impact for you last season? Maybe someone who was that one kid who made the most impact that people really didn't know about or expect going into the year?
Tony Sheehan: I'd say it was Ryan Willett, a junior wide receiver and he just did it all. He played a lot of the season with a bum shoulder and he still could do it all. He played in the slot, returned kicks and played defense. Ryan did anything we asked him to do and did it all really well for us. We knew he would be a good player but the way he ended up impacting the game and our season was huge and that took us to another level.
EDGYTIM: What did the state playoff run do for the school and the whole atmosphere around here?
Tony Sheehan: It was electric. We hadn't seen that type of school spirit in awhile. From the kids to the staff to the Bulldog Nation the fan support was great. We had a lot of teachers go down to East St. Louis along with the alumni. The support was amazing and we hand't seen that here since 2008 with basketball. Being alumni it was good to see and everyone really got behind us.
EDGYTIM: How much interaction do you have with Gary (Korhonen) during the season?
Tony Sheehan: A lot. We talked usually once a week or once every other week. We also will see each other from time to time. He's always helping and is also very encouraging. The week of the state final game we asked him to come out and talk to the kids and he loved it. We were very thankful that he could come out and talk and it was good to have him as a part of it. Honestly a lot of us wouldn't be here without him.
EDGYTIM: Best piece of advice you've gotten from Gary?
Tony Sheehan: To be yourself. And when we were on the playoff run he told me to make sure and enjoy it. He kept telling me every week we were good enough to get there and to keep working hard.
EDGYTIM: Talk about your assistant coaches here at Richards. You have a lot of veteran guys who could be head coaches at other schools but who still are here and are still loyal to Richards.
Tony Sheehan: They put in so much time and like you said a lot of them could be head coaches. I've always said that Richards is a special place and the assistant coaches realize that too. They love being here and they love coaching our kids. I'm just very lucky to have those guys here. We don't always have the biggest guys physically but we have kids with speed and they adjust and coach to what we have and what we do best. They are just an amazing group of coaches and I don't have to worry about a lot of things when we get out there because they coach their kids up and we mesh so well. At times we are dysfunctional and that's what makes it special. We feed off of that and we have fun together. That's the most important thing.
EDGYTIM: 2014. You have some nice pieces coming back especially on offense. Give us an early preview.
Tony Sheehan: We're gonna have 13 starters back which is good. We have to replace some big names on defense. Guys like Romel (Hill) and Andrew (Venerable) at linebacker along with Savon (Robinson) and all three were year starters for us along with (Dylan) Jiles and some other kids on the defensive line. But we also had a lot of kids who stepped up this past season and that will help. Ramonta (Hill) moved to linebacker last year and that was a huge help to us. He will take a leadership role on the defense and he will do a great job. We have three defensive backs returning and we had some juniors who also mixed in well last year. The sophomore class wasn't bad and we know we have some kids who can step up. The freshman class we are really excited about. This might be best group since the Hill and Venerable group. We might have a few of those guys up with us next year. We brought a few of those kids up in the playoffs and they stuck their nose right in there. Some of them got on special teams as a freshman. Offensively we've got to replace some linemen which is always a big thing. We had a few sophomore who stepped up and played well and we will need them to do that again. Skill wise we're loaded. We have Hasan (Muhammed-Rogers) back, Romeo (Johnson) at running back who just got better as the year went on. (Spencer) Tears and (Ryan) Willett at receiver are back along with (Deidrick) Shannon on the outside. We are looking for a big year out of those guys and they played 14 games in 2013 which is huge.
EDGYTIM: How motivational is the loss to Batavia in the state finals been so far this winter?
Tony Sheehan: So far it's been huge. I'd say right now we've had our best numbers in the weight room in a few years now. We have always been pretty good in the off season but this winter has been great numbers wise. The guys who will be seniors next year are telling the younger guys "this is what it takes to get back". It just doesn't happen you need to work hard. We got there and the taste is in their mouths now They want it and you can tell.
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