Football insider: All local teams show progress

From the first drive of the game to the last, DeKalb’s seniors played like a group well aware of the fact that this was potentially the last time they’d play on their home field.

It started with quarterback Jack Sauter, who racked up a game-high 254 yards of offense and three rushing touchdowns. Two of those scores came on perfectly executed read-option plays with junior running Dre Brown that Sauter took untouched to the end zone.

“He played like a senior,” Brown put it simply.

It looked like Sauter would drive the Barbs down the field every time he touched the ball, but he had to rely on his defense to seal the game. Tanner Pumfrey was the one to do it with a clutch interception in the final minute.

“That’s huge,” head coach Matt Weckler said of the play. “And you know what’s even better? It was a senior. Tanner Pumfrey steps back, drops and makes a play at the end.”

Earlier in the season, several players mentioned a lack of leadership and discipline a season ago. This year’s seniors are showing that it’s no longer an issue.

Offense clicks with Feuerbach: Sycamore’s offense didn’t miss a beat with NIck Feuerbach at quarterback on Friday. 

Feuerbach, who came in after Devin Mottet left with an injury in the Spartans’ win at Kaneland Oct. 18, started his first game of the season at Yorkville with Mottet still out. Feuerbach, a senior, went 7 of 8 for 202 yards and three touchdown passes, two of them to Ben Niemann and the other to Jake Winters. 

Sycamore coach Joe Ryan wasn’t sure if Mottet would be back for the first round of the playoffs. The Spartans look like they’ll be in good shape no matter who is under center.

“We have a luxury, there’s no doubt about it,” Ryan said. “To have the two quarterbacks that we have, we’re lucky. We’re really lucky.”

Starting linebacker Brett Weaver also sat out Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Ryan was unsure about his situation for the first round.

Careers end for Hiawatha’s seniors: When quarterback Mike Mercado and his six fellow Hiawatha seniors were sophomores, they didn’t win a game, but that didn’t stop the Hawks from hoping for a playoff berth in 2012. 

In 2012, the Hawks lost their last five games of the season after starting 3-1, but that still didn’t discourage the group.

Finally, those seven Hawks ended their careers last Friday, their ultimate goal of making the playoffs unfulfilled after another 3-1 start. But despite their lack of a winning season, coach Sean Donnelly views this group as a special one.

“You get certain groups that come around that are special and they mean something to you, and this is one of those groups that I’m lucky to have had here,” Donnelly said. “To be honest with you, it’s all off-the-field stuff that makes them special, and one of those groups that just means so much. They’ve meant a lot in my personal life and things like that, and that’s what’s made them so special, more than just the football side of things.”

Steve Nitz, Luke Srodulski and Anthony Zilis contributed to this report.

VIEWS: All local teams show progress

Before the season started, I predicted that all five teams would match or improve upon their regular-season records from 2012.

Four of five ain’t bad.

The progress from every team was obvious over the last nine weeks. While our local schools mostly struggled in 2012, there were very few weeks where any of our five teams were heavy underdogs in 2013.

While Hiawatha was the only team not to make the playoffs, things may have been different if the Hawks had been able to stay healthy. After a 3-1 start, they struggled down the stretch and much of that had to do with the Hawks’ consistent lineup shuffling.

Injury issues also hurt Kaneland, which still managed an 8-1 record. The Knights had to replace RB Jesse Balluff, who tore an ACL, and make a couple minor changes along the offensive line late in the year.

Sycamore and DeKalb both made three-win jumps and Genoa-Kingston had a two-win improvement.

The area has four playoff teams for the first time since 2010. Kaneland and Sycamore are primed for long playoff runs once again while G-K and DeKalb are both candidates to pull a first-round upset.

High school sports success can be cyclical. But for now the state of DeKalb County football is good.

And we haven’t even talked about that team at Huskie Stadium.

Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at rjacobson@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.

UNDER THE RADAR

Mike Kuhn

Genoa-Kingston, sr., WR

Kuhn hauled in a 44-yard touchdown in Genoa-Kingston’s Week 9 victory over Marengo.

STATS OF THE WEEK

3 – Years since previous playoff berth for Genoa-Kingston and DeKalb.

30 - Combined rushing touchdowns for DeKalb’s Dre Brown and Jack Sauter, including six in the Barbs’ Week 9 win over Rochelle.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Sycamore (9-0) – Spartans complete perfect regular season

2. Kaneland (8-1) – Knights showed no hangover effect from first loss.

3. Genoa-Kingston (5-4) – Cogs left no doubt in win over Marengo.

4. DeKalb (5-4) – Barbs hung on for crucial win over Rochelle.

5. Hiawatha (3-6) – End of stellar career for QB Mike Mercado.