The emotions were too much for David Compher to hold back.
Just minutes after Sycamore's 24-22 loss to Montini on Saturday, the Sycamore senior wide receiver broke through a group of reporters to hug coach Joe Ryan on Duffy Memorial Stadium.
The player-coach embrace lasted a few seconds before a teary-eyed Compher headed back toward the locker room with his teammates, one of the final moments in a sterling career for the only player in Sycamore football history to play in four postseasons.
The final result was not what the Spartans wanted, but the game was representative of a team and senior class who have consistently fought through adversity.
"What you've seen from day one, we haven't quit," Compher said. "Every down, every play we played hard and never quit. Unfortunately we didn't come out on top, but you have to admire that from everyone."
Many expected 2012 to be a transition season for Sycamore, which entered Week 1 with a new starting quarterback and an inexperienced defense.
Of the 63 players listed on the Spartans’ roster, only 15 were seniors. You’d be hard-pressed to find a younger team in the state.
“They got counted out right from the get-go because we lost a lot of kids from last year’s team,” Ryan said. “I said our senior class wasn’t as strong as what the other groups have been and they have had a chip on their shoulder.”
The numbers may not have been there for the Class of 2013, but their contributions were evident every game. Running back Austin Culton finished as the area’s leading rusher and carried the ball a season-high 32 times against Montini. Jake Davis made countless big plays on the defensive line, and Alex Keller developed into another option in Sycamore’s passing game.
This coming from a group that had little to no success in middle school football, something Compher and juinor QB Devin Mottet alluded to after Saturday’s game.
“It’s something special when you can take a team that was 0-8 in seventh grade and never scored a point to a team that’s contending and so close to the state championship,” Compher said. “It’s a huge transformation.”
That sort of development says a lot about what Ryan has built in his nine years at Sycamore, and even more about the kids who have gone through the program.
“I learned a lot about the Sycamore Spartans. Our kids battled,” Ryan said. “We played our tails off.”
Compher and the senior class unfortunately won’t get another shot at Montini. However, their four-year mark of 31-14, including five victories in the postseason, is quite the record to leave behind. It’s the second-most wins for any four-year stretch in Sycamore history, trailing only the 1958-61 teams that ran off four consecutive 8-0 seasons.
But more importantly, they’ve set the tone for the other 48 players who are returning. The juniors and sophomores yearning for yet another rematch with Montini, wanting one more opportunity to get that elusive signature victory, which would take Sycamore from a good program to a great one.
“I can’t wait,” Mottet said. “I’m going to work so hard this offseason and I know everyone else is going to work hard ... we’re going to do something big.”
In the end, the success of future Sycamore teams might be this senior class’s greatest legacy.