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 big-picture implications of a Round 2 victory for Sycamore and Kaneland.
Jacobson: The more things change, the more things stay the same. A year ago, it was Sycamore and Kaneland as the last two area playoff teams remaining in the second round, and this year it’s the same situation, albeit different circumstances.
Have there been any surprises with these two teams this year or have their seasons gone pretty much as expected?
Nitz: Well, I definitely expected both teams to have good seasons, so it’s not a shock the teams combined for one loss. However, despite the fact Sycamore had a ton of talent returning from last year’s squad, which nearly knocked off Montini in the second round of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs, I did not see the Spartans beating the Knights and taking the Northern Illinois Big 12 East championship. But here we are, and Sycamore still is unbeaten heading into today’s second-round game at Nazareth.
Jacobson: The biggest surprise has been the play of Sycamore quarterback Nick Feuerbach, who came on in relief of Devin Mottet in Week 8 and has played stellar ever since. Offensive production often drops dramatically when starters go out, but the Spartans haven’t missed a beat with Feuerbach at the helm.
Sycamore’s depth has really been showcased this season as the Spartans have dealt with a multitude of injuries. They’ve had to fill in starting spots at quarterback, running back, cornerback, linebacker and more. The undefeated record is a heck of an accomplishment and is made more impressive considering their consistent injury issues.
Both teams got to this position last year and lost. A win today would be big for both, but for whom does it matter more?
Nitz: That’s a tough question. When talking about the playoffs, it’s hard to say that a playoff win matters more to a certain team, all postseason games mean a ton to everyone.
If I had to pick one team though, I’d go with Sycamore. While Kaneland has been a consistent, dominant program for a while, this just seems like the Spartans’ year. Next season, Sycamore loses a lot of talent. Guys like Mottet, Feuerbach and WR/S Ben Niemann will be gone. This is a season where Sycamore had high expectations, a second-round loss would be crushing.
Jacobson: Both teams will have to rebuild after losing very strong senior classes, but this game is absolutely crucial to Sycamore. The Spartans have gotten to this point in the playoffs consistently, but it’s been the private schools who haven’t allowed Sycamore to move forward. A win over Nazareth, which some consider to be one of the top 25 teams in the state, no matter the class, would be a huge condience-boost.
If Sycamore wins, I think they end up in the state semifinals against Montini. But can they pull it out?
Nitz: I think it will be a close game, but I’m going with Nazareth. When judging these private schools, you can’t go by their record. The Roadrunners play in the East Suburban Catholic Conference where their only losses are to Joliet Catholic, which has won 13 state titles, and Marist, a Class 8A school that also is in the second round.
This is one of the better matchups in the state this weekend, but I think the Spartans’ season ends Saturday.
Jacobson: There’s something to this Sycamore team this season as the Spartans have answered every challenge thrown their way.
They’ve been looking forward to this opportunity ever since last year’s playoff loss and I think they get past Nazareth, 38-35.