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TAKE 2: Impressions, surprises from season’s 1st half

Published: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss the biggest surprises up to this point in the season.

Jacobson: Steve, last week our area teams went 5-0, a clean sweep. I looked back at IHSA data through the 1996 season and couldn’t find a week when Hiawatha, Kaneland, Sycamore, DeKalb and Genoa-Kingston all won. It’s safe to say that was historic, and most of the games weren’t even close. Every team won by at least double digits, and Hiawatha’s 40-27 victory over Westminster Christian was the smallest margin of victory. 

All our local teams stand at .500 or above, but which has been the most impressive through four weeks? 

Nitz: You could make a case for Kaneland, but I’m going to go with Sycamore because of the schedule the Spartans have played. The win at Lincoln-Way West in Week 1 was impressive, not to mention the shutout against a solid Geneseo team this past week. After giving up 26 points to DeKalb in Week 3, Sycamore’s defense did a good job responding against the Maple Leafs. This team has the chance to do some good things this season.

Jacobson: I will make the case for Kaneland, which now has extended its regular-season winning streak to 32 games, dating to the end of the 2009 season. Every time out, Kaneland gets its opponents’ best shot and the Knights haven’t flinched. Their closest game to date was a 20-point win over Brooks in Week 1 and they dominated then-No. 10 Sterling, 48-7, on the road in Week 3. Their average margin of victory is a healthy 33 points a game.

The schedule gets a bit tougher this week as the Knights play host to Rochelle. But Kaneland has shown so far it is serious about making up for last year’s second-round playoff exit.

With that, what has been the biggest surprise of the season so far?

Nitz: I’m not sure I can consider any of our teams as being a surprise. We expected Kaneland and Sycamore to be real good, and I’m not surprised to see where DeKalb, Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha are at considering the schedules they’ve played. 

I like what Sycamore quarterback Devin Mottet has done this season. Granted, he was a second-team all-area selection last year, but his 7-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is extremely impressive, as is Mottet’s nearly 67 percent completion percentage. He’s also a big factor in the Spartans’ running game, placing sixth in the area in rushing yards with 259, and has four touchdowns.

I’m not exactly sure how surprising Mottet’s play has been, but that’s what I’m going with. What’s your opinion?

Jacobson: Mottet’s two-minute drill against Montini last year was one of the most impressive drives in a pressure situation that I’ve seen from a high school quarterback, so I expected him to be even better this year. However, the 250-plus rushing yards through four games I did not see coming.

Although we both thought DeKalb would be improved this season, I didn’t expect the Barbs to be as explosive offensively as they have been early in the season. The players have said coach Matt Weckler’s scheme is complex, but they seem to have picked it up pretty well.

Right now, the Barbs are averaging 35 points a game and have scored at least 25 points in every game thus far. You could argue their schedule has something to do with that, but DeKalb also posted the most points against Sycamore’s defense this season.

The Barbs’ offense could get even better as the season progresses.

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