To say Dre Brown has been contained by opposing defenses would be an overstatement – the DeKalb junior leads the area with 532 yards on 7.2 yards a carry this season.
But teams were certainly focusing on Brown throughout the first three games of the season, taking him out of the game as much as they could. Brown's star impact hadn't been fully felt until the Barbs' 56-28 win over Ottawa on Friday, when he rushed for 164 yards on 15 carries as DeKalb showed the Pirates some new looks.
“We changed up a couple of little things just to get him the ball a little bit more,” coach Matt Weckler said. “Our normal offense is a read offense, and defenses can take him away, and then the quarterback will pull it and do some other things. But this week, we did a little more base-blocking stuff and made sure he got the ball."
Brown had three runs of at least 26 yards in the win, and he finished with 179 total yards and four touchdowns.
“All he needs is a little crease and he'll take off and go,” Weckler said.
Sycamore defense steps up: With so many weapons, it’s no surprise the Sycamore offense has garnered the majority of the attention surrounding the 4-0 Spartans. After all, they put up 136 points total in their three games leading up to Geneseo.
The question mark was the defense, which hadn’t held an opponent to less than 20 points in 2013. Against DeKalb in Week 3, Sycamore gave up 26 first-half points before holding the Barbs scoreless for the final two quarters, but it would need a much better effort to contain the Maple Leafs.
The Spartans held Geneseo to 128 total yards, and Jack Dargis and Josh Hunt each had fumble recoveries on the way to shutting out a team that had run all over its first three opponents.
Ben Niemann, Devin Mottet and the Sycamore offense has proven to be very explosive, but now the defense has shown it can shut down some of the area’s best.
“I thought we had a good defensive game plan,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. "I thought our kids played with much more energy tonight defensively ... Hopefully, they can continue to play well.”
G-K leading BNC: Genoa-Kingston is in the driver's seat in the Big Northern East. There's certainly a long way to go, but the Cogs sit at 2-0 in conference play and control their own destiny.
However, G-K started the same exact way last season, losing to St. Edward and Rockford Lutheran the first two weeks of the year before getting wins over Richmond-Burton and Rockford Christian to move to 2-2. The Cogs won just one more game the rest of the year.
Friday's game against Burlington Central will go a long way towards the Cogs' conference title and playoff aspirations.
"It's nice to be 2-0 in the division," G-K coach Travis Frederick said. "But Central's going to have something to say about that next week. It's homecoming. Sometimes those kind of distractions can get in the way. We're going to focus on being all business this week."
• Steve Nitz, Anthony Zilis and Luke Srodulski contributed to this report.
VIEWS: Can our five local teams qualify for the postseason?
All five area teams won last week, and their games weren't even close. Every team posted a double-digit margin of victory, and the closest game was a 40-27 win by Hiawatha over Westminster Christian.
According to IHSA records dating back to 1996, an area sweep hasn't occurred in the past 18 years, certainly an impressive accomplishment for an area that now boasts a collective record of 15-5 through four weeks.
Considering that our five teams combined for only 23 regular season victories in 2012, progress has certainly been made over the past year. All five schools are in great position for a playoff berth and the case can be made that each team is better than its 2012 version. At the very least, every team has matched or improved upon its record through Week 4 from one year ago.
Kaneland and Sycamore are both 4-0 and ranked in the top 4 of The Associated Press Class 5A poll, Genoa-Kingston is undefeated in the Big Northern Conference while Hiawatha rides a three-game winning streak.
Could this be the best season for local football teams in recent memory?
Not so fast.
Because the last two seasons have seen only Sycamore and Kaneland qualify for the postseason, it's easy to forget how strong area football was back in 2010.
That year, the area teams posted a combined regular season record of 30-15 and Kaneland, Sycamore, G-K and DeKalb all qualified for the playoffs. The Knights lost to Montini in the state semifinals while Sycamore was taken out by the Broncos in the second round. The Cogs and Barbs each lost in the first round.
Inevitably this season will be defined by playoff berths and the area has never seen all five qualify for the postseason.
A clean sweep in Week 4 was another part of a great start, but can every team finish the job over the last five games and get to that first weekend in November?
That would be historic.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.
UNDER THE RADAR
DeKalb, so., WR
Tate caught his first touchdown of the season last week and DeKalb seems to be finding more ways to get the ball to its speedy wideout. Tate also has a rushing touchdown on the season.
STATS OF THE WEEK
42 - Points scored by DeKalb in the first half of the Barbs' 56-28 win over Ottawa.
128 - Total yards allowed by Sycamore's defense in a 19-0 shutout of Geneseo. The Maple Leafs had scored 129 points in their previous three games.
1. Kaneland (4-0)
The Knights shut out Streator in their first full game without running back Jesse Balluff.
2. Sycamore (4-0, 1-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)
The Spartans' defense had bounce-back performance in shutout of Geneseo.
3. Hiawatha (3-1)
The Hawks are now on a three-game winning streak
4. DeKalb (2-2, 0-1 NI Big 12 East)
DeKalb's offense looking better each week.
5. Genoa-Kingston (2-2)
The Cogs' second win in a row with solid win at Rockford Christian.