Here`s a backfield of dreams

Tribune reporter

Exaggeration is a dying art form in this modern age.

Everything that moves is captured on videotape. No longer can an ex-high school football hero turn a 100-yard afternoon into a blockbuster 250-yard day a decade later. No longer must you store memories of high school glory in your head.

No, the proof now resides inside those small, black, plastic cartridges, where it remains until the tape breaks inside the VCR from repeated rewindings.In the south suburban town of Palos Heights, there is one particular tape of a game played on Oct. 12 that has been replayed a few thousand times. That was the night Shepard`s Tyrone Washington halted Richards' 34-game winning streak by running for 76 yards on 10 carries during a last-ditch, 90-yard drive that culminated in his game-winning 35-yard TD run with 1 minute 20 seconds left:

Shepard 7, Richards 6.

No exaggeration necessary.

"That was one of those games that will stay in your memory forever," said Shepard coach Don Webster. "I'll always remember telling the kids before the game: 'There's gonna be thousands of people here. And 10 years from now, you`ll be at a party, or in a bar, or at a wake, and for some reason someone's gonna ask you what school you went to. You`ll say 'Shepard,' and they`ll say: 'Hey, did you play in that Richards game?'"

No doubt, Washington, who rushed for 175 yards that night, will hear that question in the future. Belleville Althoff's Hickey Thompson also figures to some day hear the same query, albeit about the Monticello game, when he rang up 410 yards. So will Leo`s Corey Rogers, about one of a number of games in which he steamrolled opponents.

Like Washington, both of those backs had games when the world appeared to be spinning around on their fingertips. And like Washington, both of those hide-'n-seek backs are members of the dream backfield that heads the Tribune's 1990 All-State team.

Washington, who also excelled at linebacker, ran for 1,885 yards on 243 carries (a 7.8 average) and 22 touchdowns. Thompson (2,848 yards, 39 TDs), who set the state single-season rushing record this year, also set an all-time playoff record with his 410-yard effort against Monticello last week. He'll try to be the first-and possibly the last-Illinois player to vault over the 3,000-yard mark for a season when Althoff meets Rock Island Alleman for the Class 3A crown Friday.

Rogers, who ran for 1,924 yards and 23 TDs, took the unheralded Lions from a 5-5 record in 1989 to an 11-2 finish and a 4A semifinal appearance in '90. While he managed to make the Tribune's preseason list of the top Chicago-area players, Rogers wasn't a consensus All-State prospect in August. "Corey took that as a challenge," said Leo coach Bob Foster. "Some of the others, like (St. Rita DB) Tracy Graham and (Mt. Carmel HB) Bobby Sanders, are kids he knows, and he felt he should be up there, too. We put in an I-formation, with Corey running out of a deep backfield, and said, 'Go out and do it.'"

Corey did it, all right. With yards to spare.

Of course, you can`t do much damage without a top-notch line springing you, and the Tribune's All-State line averages 6 feet 4 inches, 250 pounds. Joliet Catholic's John Horn (6-6, 250) is considered by some as the state's most dominant lineman in decades. Joining Horn are Mt. Carmel's Charles Edwards (6-3, 266), Larkin's Mark Hornok (6-4, 255), Rockton Hononegah's Steve Stark (6-5, 245) and Thornton's Bob Mehorczyk (6-2, 235).

Rounding out the offensive attack is East St. Louis quarterback Deandre Singleton (2,300 yards, 33 TD passes), the only junior on offense. His receivers are Vaurice Patterson of Conant (42 receptions, 708 yards) and Homer Bush (68 receptions, 1,367 yards, 22 TDs).

The defensive unit is no less awesome.

Check out this defensive line, which is even larger than its offensive peers at an average of 6-3, 259. Top dog is Chicago Vocational's Greg Wilkins (6-4, 280), followed by Deerfield's Michael Adams (6-2, 235), Joliet Catholic's Tom Snyder (6-3, 240) and Robeson's Lloyd Bickham (6-3, 280). Wilkins and Adams were the beneficiaries of a big preseason buildup, and they lived up to their reputations. Snyder and Bickham were caught in the shadows of more prominent teammates (like John Horn) or more prominent Chicago-area teams (Simeon, CVS, King), but still made their presences known.

Richards junior Chris Koeppen (6-0, 212) keys a slam-happy linebacking corps along with Bartonville Limestone's Brian Tranchitella (6-1, 215) and Wheaton Central's Tom Cione (6-1, 225). While Cione lost out to Naperville Central's Matt Armstrong as the Du Page Valley defensive player of the year, he more that made up for that by leading the Tigers into the Class 5A title game.

Here's what we'd like to do on defense: Put each of those magnificent seven players up on the line and call for an all-out assault on a panic-stricken quarterback. That way, our All-State secondary can do its thing.

Elgin's Charles Stafford heads that group along with Marian Catholic's Rodney Harrison, St. Rita's Graham and Rock Island Alleman's Matt Woods. If the ball is in the air, it's theirs.

Finally, Thornwood's straight-on kicker Brett Larsen is our special teams guy. Obviously, no last-second field goals will be needed, but we love the sight of Larsen nearly booting one through the uprights on the kickoff. And there would be many kickoffs with this team.

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