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Oswego’s Jamaal Richardson makes his presence known

Oswego senior safety Jamaal Richards(25) has scored three defensive touchdowns this year including an 80-yard interceptireturn Friday Plainfield South. |

Oswego senior safety Jamaal Richardson (25) has scored three defensive touchdowns this year, including an 80-yard interception return Friday at Plainfield South. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 16, 2012 6:19AM

Six weeks into the high school football season, Jamaal Richardson hadn’t been playing poorly for Oswego’s defense. Far from it.

Still, Oswego coach Brian Cooney felt this wasn’t as good as it gets for the senior leader of his secondary. That’s why he called the safety into his office before Week 7’s homecoming game vs. Plainfield North.

“We had a heart to heart, you could say,” Richardson said. “Then (Cooney) gets all serious and shows me (video of) a crappy play and he called me out on it.”

The first-year coach who directed the Panthers defense last season when the 6-foot-2 Richardson played cornerback just wanted to deliver a message.

“He’s always been a smart player with such a tremendous attitude, but I felt like he could make more of an impact,” said Cooney.

“I challenged him to make his presence known on the field because he’s a heck of an athlete. We looked at some tape and I said, ‘You can make more of an impact on the field, in practice and in the games.”

Richardson did just that. Oswego led Plainfield North 21-7 at halftime but had to punt the ball away on the first possession of the third quarter. The Tigers took over, hoping to get back into it. On their second play from their own 18, quarterback Kurt Palendech dropped to pass on a rollout.

“My guy was the second receiver on the play, running a crossing route away from him. Another one was crossing toward him,” Richardson said. “I saw he couldn’t get it to my guy so I cut in front of the other receiver and was able to intercept it (at the visitors’ 25-yard line).”

He returned it to the 3, setting up another Panther score.

“I cut back to avoid the quarterback but then got leveled by an offensive lineman, but that was OK,” Richardson said.

Yes, it was.

“Big play,” Cooney said. “I challenged him to do it and he stood out. And that’s what talented athletes do.”

The coach had moved Richardson to safety this season for two reasons. One, that’s where college coaches have told him they think the standout defender will be playing at the next level. Two, Cooney was comfortable that Elliot McGaughy and Alain Dixon could do the job at corner.

“Last year Jamaal was our lockdown cover guy but I was really happy with McGaughy and Dixon, plus we needed someone in the middle of the field with experience making calls, someone who can go inside or out and still cover. He’s a nice guy to have out there,” said Cooney.

In last Friday’s win at Plainfield South, Richardson was at it again, picking off another pass and returning it 80 yards for a score. It gives him three defensive scores this season since he returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns in the season opener against Geneva.

Richardson has no scholarship offers yet but has visited Northwestern and attended camps last summer at Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois and Illinois State.

“It’s pretty stressful,” he said. “I’ll make some more visits after the season and we’ll see what happens. The academics are big because I know football won’t be forever.”

It’s just another challenge, waiting to be met.

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