SYCAMORE – Sycamore football coach Joe Ryan sent Austin Culton a text message Friday morning telling the senior running back to be prepared for a heavy workload against Rochelle.
Ryan called Culton’s number 31 times and Culton delivered to the tune of 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Spartans stopped a two-game losing streak with a 26-14 win over Rochelle on Friday night in Northern Illinois Big 12 East play.
“I told coach last Saturday when we came in the morning to watch film, ‘Hey coach, next week if you need me to carry the ball 30 times I will,’ ” Culton said. “I did what I had to do, I’m really proud of the line, too.”
Sycamore (5-2, 2-1 NI Big 12 East), which had scored only six points in its previous two games, used an 11-play opening drive consisting of all run plays to go up, 6-0, on a Culton 1-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans took another six-plus minutes on a 16-play drive late in the second quarter and Culton ran in for his second touchdown of the game with 23 seconds remaining in the half.
Normally not a quick-strike offense, Rochelle (5-2, 1-2 NI Big 12 East) scored with no time remaining in the half on an Evan White touchdown run. A good kickoff return and two plays covering 50 yards preceded White’s run and Sycamore went into the half only up, 12-7.
Despite not running an offensive play in the third quarter, Sycamore increased its lead by six on an interception return by Ben Niemann.
On a third-and-7, Niemann stepped in front of a Rochelle receiver for the pick and made one player miss down the sideline, going 82 yards for the touchdown to put the Spartans up, 18-7.
“We did just enough defensively,” Ryan said. “They are a hard team to stop; their run is so tough to stop. It was nice to win on our field against a really good team.”
Sycamore took another eight minutes off the clock after a Rochelle punt, and quarterback Devin Mottet found Niemann down the seam to make it a 26-7 Spartans lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Spartans go on the road to face Kaneland next Friday.
“Coming in and doing this to a team like that is a great motivator for us,” Culton said. “It’s a huge win for momentum, confidence and now we’re in the playoffs, it’s a monkey off our back.”