DeKALB – Jake Smith was one of the last DeKalb football players to trot into the locker room Saturday after the Barbs’ 42-6 win over Streator, and he flicked on the locker room stereo, blasting the song “All I Do is Win” from the speakers.
“Everyone went crazy,” the lineman said. “It was pretty cool.”
For that day, the Barbs didn’t care that their record was 1-4.
For the first time this season, everything went exactly to plan. For the first time this season, the Barbs were winners.
“We played the complete four quarters,” receiver Drew Paszotta said. “Everybody was happy. It was a good time.”
The first four games of the season had strayed from the Barbs’ expectations, and much of that had to do with a surprising step up in their strength of schedule.
Galesburg and Hampshire, the Barbs’ first two opponents, each won only one game last season. This year, both teams have eclipsed that mark, and Galesburg is 4-1. Ottawa, which beat the Barbs two weeks ago, is 5-0 after winning only four games last year.
“You can’t look at the record from last year to determine how good they’re going to be this year, but I think we might have done that a little too much,” Paszotta said. “I think that gave us some trouble.”
Even with the tough schedule, the Barbs conceivably could have won three games if not for costly mistakes.
Against Galesburg, DeKalb trailed by two late in the fourth quarter before a touchdown with 2:22 remaining essentially clinched the game for the Silver Streaks. Points also were available for the taking early in the game, when the Barbs failed on a two-point conversion and faked a 27-yard field goal.
Against Ottawa and Hampshire, the Barbs led in the second half before turnovers ruined their chances.
Finally, against Streator, the Barbs didn’t let mistakes get in the way of a blowout victory.
“I think it takes a while, when you get a new coach and a new offense and a new defense to mesh,” coach Todd Hallaron said. “We started off with a couple of tough teams, and we needed a confidence-builder.”
This week, the Barbs face a much stiffer test when they head to Kaneland to play the undefeated Knights. But the Barbs have a sense of optimism that partially stems from last year’s 49-38 loss, which they led, 31-14, early in the third quarter.
“Nobody expected us to win last year,” Paszotta said. “They said we had no chance, and we came out and played them tough. It’s kind of like last year, and we think we can do that again.”
The Barbs know they have to play a virtually flawless game to beat the Knights, but this is a different team than the one that was winless when the Barbs stepped onto their home field last week.
After last week’s win, the Barbs know they can play that near-perfect game that had eluded them in the first month of the season.
“Before playing against Streator, we never would have thought we would have a chance against Kaneland,” Smith said. “Now, our heads are all up. We want to beat Kaneland. Our heads are held high, we’re planning on going in there and winning.”