DeKalb's running game never found any consistency in a 14-7 loss to Yorkville on Friday.
The seven points scored was the lowest offensive output for the Barbs all season. Jack Sauter and Dre Brown – the area's two leading rushers – were held to only 116 rushing yards after averaging a combined 245 rushing yards through the first seven games of the season.
DeKalb coach Matt Weckler gave two factors for the lack of offense. For only the second time all season, the Barbs' offensive line wasn't getting much push into the second level, allowing Yorkville's middle linebacker to consistently make plays.
While the Barbs have looked very comfortable on their home turf, many DeKalb players had trouble finding their footing on Yorkville's grass field.
Spartans get pressure with speed: Sycamore knew they wouldn't out-size Kaneland up front Friday.
With their vaunted offensive line, book-ended by 280-pound Division-I prospects Joe Komel and Justin Diddell, the Knights offer plenty of protection for quarterback Drew David and the Kaneland running game.
But the Spartans' quickness allowed them to put pressure on David during the 31-21 Sycamore win, especially in the game's last 17 minutes, when they held Kaneland scoreless, sacked David twice and forced two interceptions.
“We were able to use some of our speed to get around the edge and off the edge,” Ryan said. “That's the thing that's been really good for us this year, our speed on defense. Again, we hit a spot and we were able to get through and were able to make plays when we needed to. We didn't get to them all the time, Drew made some great plays.”
The Knights mustered only 55 yards in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans claimed at least a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East crown.
“We talk about our kids wanting to be great whenever they step on the field, and you can't just rely on one person to be great, especially when you're playing a team of Kaneland's caliber,” Ryan said. “We needed the entire team to step up. It was just our night. It just came together for us those last 17 minutes. Certainly that doesn't mean we've separated ourselves from anybody, we were just really good that night.”
Anthony Zilis contributed to this report.
VIEWS: Defining win for Sycamore
Sycamore has been so close so many times.
The playoff games against Montini have been well-documented, along with the battles against Kaneland's dominant teams in recent years.
But the Spartans were never able to win of those marquee games, always coming up just short.
That changed last week as Sycamore defeated Kaneland, 31-21, ending the Knights' 35-game regular-season winning streak.
It gave the Spartans the first conference title of coach Joe Ryan's 10-year coaching stint at Sycamore and undoubtedly represented their biggest victory during that time.
Now with Kaneland in the rear-view mirror, Sycamore's focus is forward.
A win Friday at Yorkville would give Sycamore its first perfect regular season since 1978 and match the most wins Ryan has recorded in any season at Sycamore, tying the 2010 team that finished 9-2.
But this team has much grander visions than just double-digit wins. The records they want to break can only be taken on in November.
Depending on how the final week plays out, the Spartans are in line for one of the top two seeds in Class 5A. Just like they've dealt with all season long, the expectations will be there for the Spartans to perform in the postseason.
The difference this season? They know they belong among the state's elite.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.
UNDER THE RADAR
Sycamore, jr., WR
Yet another receiving threat for Sycamore, Treml had the game-clinching touchdown Fridayagainst Kaneland.
STATS OF THE WEEK
1,463 – Days elapsed between Kaneland's past two regular-season losses after the Knights fell to Sycamore, 31-21, on Friday.
3 – Number of two-point conversions missed by Genoa-Kingston in a 22-21 loss to Harvard.
1. Sycamore (8-0) – Spartans pick up the biggest win of Joe Ryan's career with a win over Kaneland.
2. Kaneland (7-1) – The Knights' dominance in the NI Big 12 East ended Friday.
3. Genoa-Kingston (4-4) – Cogs have lived – and now died – by the two-point conversion late in games.
3. DeKalb (4-4) – Barbs struggled offensively against Yorkville.
5. Hiawatha (3-5) – Playoff dreams will have to wait one more year.