Riley Hurley isn’t Dion Hooker.
He’s not the Class 2A 200-meter champion who can beat any defensive player in a footrace. But he is effective as a big, strong running back for Sycamore who can burst through the line and pick up yards. Without Hooker, who was out with an ankle injury, Hurley was effective in Friday’s 34-0 win over Ottawa, picking up 62 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
“We’re not going to put a product out there that can’t play well, that’s why we’re sitting Dion right now,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. “We’re just kind of nursing him along. We don’t know when we’ll get him back. Riley has done a great job, I thought Derek [Massier] came in and ran the ball well. It gives us some options. They’re a little more pound it in there than lickity split. You’ve got to curb your offense in that way. I’ve got to be smart with my play-calling because it’s not as explosive.”
After not receiving a carry in Week 1, Hurley is third in the area with eight touchdowns. Friday’s game was his first start as a lead running back, but his 34 carries in the previous three games had him prepared to take the load Friday.
“[After] Week 1, He’s had a lot of carries, so he’s no stranger to getting the ball,” Ryan said. “I thought he played really well for being the main guy.”
Hawks starting to get healthy: Despite Friday’s lopsided 48-7 loss at Ottawa Marquette, Hiawatha is still in a good position. The 3-2 Hawks need to win just two out of their last four games to become playoff-eligible.
Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly also expects his team, which was without five starters Friday, to get healthy soon. Donnelly was impressed with the way his team fought against the unbeaten Crusaders. Donnelly said lineman Bart Hall will be back for Friday’s game against Luther North, and added that there’s a possibility running back/safety Nick Doolittle, who was injured in a loss to Mooseheart in Week 1, could return as well.
Donnelly has been impressed with the play of tailback Michael Speer and said the offensive line has been doing a good job, but the return of Doolittle will provide a nice boost.
“He’s played a quarter. And in one quarter of football he ran for 70 yards and had four tackles,” Donnelly said. “We joke, ‘Nick you know you’re on pace to have 280 yards every single game.’ So he’s going to be a huge help, he’s one of our key kids.”
Big win for G-K: “It’s just another win,” is heard constantly every football season.
But after Genoa-Kingston’s 43-0 demolition of Burlington Central, junior quarterback Griffin McNeal was a little bit more emphatic then that about the significance of the win.
“This win is going to give us a good shot of making the playoffs this year,” McNeal said.
Who could argue with him? The victory had a whole lot of statistical significance. It gave G-K (3-2) its first winning record since 2010, which is the last time the Cogs made the playoffs and the last time they beat Burlington Central. It also matches the team’s win total from last year and puts head coach Travis Frederick one win away from matching his career win total at G-K coming into this year.
Still, none of this is as important as getting to the playoffs, and mentally, the win got G-K closer to that goal.
McNeal said, “Confidence is sky-high,” and it’ll need to stay there when the Cogs battle 5-0 Winnebago on Friday.
• Steve Nitz, Luke Srodulski and Anthony Zilis contributed to this report.
VIEWS: Statement week for area teams
With only nine games in the regular season, every week is big for high school football teams.
But some games present bigger opportunities to make a statement and Week 6 has shaped up to be one of those Fridays that could have huge playoff implications.
While our area teams have been superb in the past three weeks, combing to go 13-2, most of the damage has been done against sub-par competition. There are no easy opponents on the schedule in Week 6.
Kaneland travels to DeKalb and puts its 33-game regular season winning streak on the line. This game may very well see 100 combined points scored between the two offensive powerhouses and it should be interesting to see the contrasting styles of Kaneland’s spread offense compared to DeKalb’s powerful running game.
Sycamore goes down to Morris and will look to end a two-game losing streak against the Redskins. Morris looks to be down this season, but Sycamore has injury issues to deal with as well.
Genoa-Kingston, riding a three-game winning streak, hosts Winnebago, owners of a 5-0 record. The Cogs did beat Richmond-Burton at home, but their other two wins have come against opponents with a combined 1-9 record.
It’s hard to figure out the Northeastern Athletic Conference. Luther North lost big to Chicago Hope on Friday, a week after handing Mooseheart its only loss of the season. Hiawatha has yet to beat a team with a winning record, but a victory over 2-3 Luther North would be big, especially at home.
Only Kaneland and Sycamore can clinch playoff berth with wins in Week 6, but no teams will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss.
No matter the results, we’ll learn a lot about our area teams in Friday’s games.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.
UNDER THE RADAR
Genoa-Kingston, jr., QB
Quarterbacks aren’t usually under the radar, but with so many quality signal-callers in the area and the Cogs possessing a dominant run game, McNeal is quietly having a good season. He threw for two touchdowns and was 7 of 10 for 93 yards in a 43-0 win Friday over Burlington Central.
STATS OF THE WEEK
120 – Consecutive minutes Sycamore has held its opponents without a point, dating back to the second half of Week 3.
13 – Number of combined victories for area teams during the past three weeks while suffering only two losses.
1. Kaneland (5-0)
The Knights got a fight from Rochelle but pulled away in second half.
2. Sycamore (5-0)
Spartans’ defense posts second consecutive shutout in win over Ottawa.
3. Genoa-Kingston (3-2)
The Cogs dominated Burlington Central for big win.
4. DeKalb (3-2)
The Barbs made it look easy against Streator on the road.
5. Hiawatha (3-2)
The Hawks were overmatched by undefeated Ottawa Marquette.