NEW LENOX – Sycamore senior Alec Kozak had one catch to his name in his entire football career when he made the 83-yard reception that turned around Saturday's 34-21 win over Lincoln-Way West, the No. 10 team in Class 5A.
That one catch came about an hour earlier.
With the offense stalling, Devin Mottet unleashed a pass down the right sideline to Kozak, who had never played football at any level before Saturday's game, and the senior quarterback was confident the ball would find his new teammate's hands.
“My feeling was touchdown, I wanted to be in the end zone with him for that first touchdown,” Mottet said. “He came up with a heck of a catch. … For his first varsity game ever, that's amazing, he did great.”
Kozak caught the pass in stride and ran all the way to the 1-yard line, which set up the go-ahead touchdown to for an offense that struggled to gain a first down during the second quarter, giving Sycamore a 21-14 lead.
After Mottet gave the No. 5 Spartans a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 4-yard run and a 10-yard pass to Michael John Poorten, the Spartans struggled to create offense in the second quarter, going three-and-out in their first two possessions and letting time expire in their third.
Meanwhile, Lincoln-Way West began to have their way with the Sycamore defense. Running back Javier Montalvo piled up 55 yards on two touchdown drives in the second quarter, in which he scored on 17 and 10-yard runs.
“They started exploiting our defense and using our weaknesses, so we had to switch it at halftime,” linebacker Logan Schneider said. “We had to change up how we handle their run since teams we go against don't use that kind of offense.”
After Mottet found Kozak on third down on the play that shifted the game's momentum, he pounded in a 1-yard run to give Sycamore the lead.
The Sycamore defense held stout in the third quarter, and Mottet, who ran for three touchdowns and passed for another, came up big again.
The second-year starting quarterback, who threw for 279 yards on 11-of-17 passing, fumbled a snap on the Lincoln-Way West 5-yard line. Luckily for Mottet, the ball bounced back into his hands, and he charged into the end zone.
“Oh crap. That was all I could think about [after the fumble],” Mottet said. “Luckily, it was a play for me regardless, so I just hit the hole … The line did great to block long enough for me to run it in.”
On the first play of the Warriors' next drive, Logan Schneider intercepted quarterback Justin Keuch and ran for a 44-yard touchdown, giving the Spartans a 34-14 lead and virtually sealing the result.
Lincoln-Way West had one last gasp when Colin DuCray caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, but the Spartans were able to put the game to bed with another defensive stand.
Saturday's win was the Spartans' second in as many years against Lincoln-Way West. After winning last year's game at home, a road victory against a top opponent may point to even bigger things for the Spartans. With a bevy of returners in tow, along with at least one key newcomer, Sycamore is confident after starting their season in a big way.
“We know we can play a really good team on the road and get a victory,” coach Joe Ryan said. “It's a process and it's a long way to go. It would have been the same way if we would've lost the game, but it's nice to be on the winning end of those.”