Morris senior Brad Rickard had a pretty quiet day on Friday night in the football game against Geneseo, at least by his standards. All he did was make seven tackles from his safety position and catch one pass for 10 yards as a receiver in the 43-0 win by the Redskins.
However, Rickard made a name for himself by making a huge play in games against Minooka and Oak Lawn Richards. In the game against the Indians, Rickard ran down quarterback Joe Carnagio when it looked like Minooka was going to get a sure touchdown. Against the Bulldogs, Rickard had the game-clinching interception with 10 seconds remaining.
"He's a senior that plays with a lot of heart and we've been really happy with what we've seen out of him so far," Morris coach Alan Thorson said.
According to Thorson, one of the things about Rickard getting off to such a solid start is that it instills confidence in everyone that the job is getting done.
"It's a huge confidence boost for the guys on big plays like that, especially for Brad," Thorson said. "As a junior, he didn't get on the field much for us but he worked his butt off for us."
"On both occasions we needed a big play. It seems like Brad's been stepping up pretty good," Morris senior captain Nik Countryman said. "Seems like if we ever need someone, Brad's always there. It's pretty much like he's got everyone on the defense's back."
Part of the reason that Rickard saw little time of the field last year was that he was behind the seniors, both on the depth chart and athletically. However, that's not the case this year.
"He was just a little behind last year," Thorson said. "He had a great offseason and for him to come out in the first two games and see him have the success he's had so far is great. I know the whole coaching staff is thrilled for him and we're excited to see what he's going to keep doing this year."
Running down Carnagio
Morris opened the season with its longtime rival in Minooka when Rickard had his first signature moment of the season. Minooka was behind by a couple of scores and looking for its first touchdown of the season when quarterback Carnagio broke through the line of the Redskins and looked like he had a clear shot at a 80-plus touchdown run.
"A lot of our players bit on their dive play, and the next thing you know, Carnagio's got the ball and took off down the field," Countryman said. "It was good that Brad was still paying attention on the play, reading his reads and made the tackle downfield."
A combination of the spread and the linebacker blitz led to Carnagio breaking loose.
"They had twins (receivers) and I had to go out there and guard one of the guys. We had a linebacker blitz, so I had to go and cover a wide receiver. I looked at the wide receiver and when they said 'hike', I saw the quarterback had a wide-open hole," Rickard said. "I tried to hunt him down and I got there and tackled him. It was a big play. At first I didn't think I could catch him because I was on the other side. But then while I was hustling I knew I was going to be able to catch him."
It was huge because Minooka had to settle for a field goal on the drive instead of lining up for a PAT kick.
Thorson said that the coaches had been talking to the defensive backs all week leading up to the opener not to get beat deep.
"If you go back to the Minooka game, we had been preaching to the safeties all week leading up to the game for the safeties not to get beat and don't let anyone behind them. But at some point, you're going to have to make a big tackle in a game, and Brad Rickard did that," Thorson said.
"They came out in a spread formation to get our safeties out and they ran right up the middle on us. Brad took a great angle. That's why we work a pursuit drill every defensive day. It's about them hustling to the ball. In that situation, Brad came up with a huge game-saving tackle."
Morris won the game 14-6, holding Minooka out of the end zone in a win.
In the next week, Rickard made the signature interception of the game against Tommy Mister, a quarterback who reportedly has been pursued by the University of Notre Dame. Richards was driving for what would have been the go-ahead score when Rickard intercepted Mister at the goal line to preserve the win. Before that Rickard also had a fumble recovery that almost slipped under the radar.
"The recovery came after an interception by Josh Lincoln," Rickard said. "He was running and a guy came up from behind and popped the ball out. I saw the ball. I was around it and I quickly got my butt over there and recovered it."
"Brad had a great game for us (against Richards). He deflected a pass early and on Josh Lincoln's interception he recovered a fumble," Thorson said. "When it came down to it on the last play of the game, we knew they were going to try and go deep on us and Brad made a great read on the ball. Mike McNelis was right there also, but it was Brad who came down with the pick."
Countryman stated the obvious about the end-game play.
"It was huge," he said. "We had our backs to the wall and had to stop them to win the game."
Rickard said that he was able to get into good position, all the while watching Mister's eyes.
"On that interception, I had deep coverage and I read the quarterback's eyes," he said. "When I saw him looking that way, I hustled my butt over there. When I saw the ball up in the air, it was a jump ball and I went up and came down with it."
It helped secure Morris a 15-13 win against the Bulldogs. Rickard's was one of three interceptions in the game.
This past week, Morris added three more fumble recoveries on defense in the running-clock victory against Geneseo — something the Redskins defense is quite proud of.
"Our defense is known for creating turnovers," Rickard said. "We're known for stopping the run and we're known for getting the ball. We're know for getting turnovers. It's a big deal to us."