SYCAMORE – Devin Mottet was tired.
His uniform was covered in mud after playing on a sloppy, mud-filled Engh Community Field, and the Sycamore senior quarterback had taken a beating, running the ball 27 times for 108 yards in the Spartans' 21-14 win over Lincoln-Way West in the IHSA Class 5A quarterfinals.
With a steady rain coming down Saturday which lasted beyond kickoff, Sycamore didn't have the opportunity to just throw it to senior wide receiver Ben Niemann time and time again. Tailback Dion Hooker wasn't really able to go anywhere.
When Warriors quarterback Justin Keuch was pushed out of bounds at the Sycamore 4-yard line as time ran out on the Warriors, it didn't matter. The Spartans showed another way they can beat a team.
The conditions did not favor Sycamore, and they played right into Lincoln-Way West's hands. The Warriors were going to try and pound the ball with Javier Montalvo, and they did, and Montalvo bulldozed through the Sycamore defense at times, finishing with 192 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
At halftime, trailing 14-7, Sycamore coach Joe Ryan felt he needed to adjust. He spread the offense out, and made Mottet the focal point – as a runner.
With the Warriors' defense more spread out across the field, Mottet would take the snap out of the shotgun and just power his way through. He ran the ball 17 times after halftime, playing a huge part in the Spartans' two second-half touchdown drives.
"We put the game on his shoulders," Spartans coach Joe Ryan said. "... You know what, he'd be the first one to tell you though, there's a lot of guys blocking their tails off to get into those spots."
Oh, and that Niemann guy? He came up big in the few chances he had, catching the game-tying and game-winning touchdowns, with Mottet basically throwing him a jump ball each time.
Saturday, against a good Warriors team who won the Southwest Suburban Red and who's only loss of the year came against the Spartans in New Lenox Week 1, Sycamore won the game in a different matter.
Next week at Montini in the semifinals, however, the Spartans will need all facets of their play working. Nobody has been able to cover Niemann all year, and Sycamore will need him to be a monster. The Spartans will need both Mottet's arm and legs, and offensive production from Hooker will be useful as well.
Sycamore has to be mistake-free. If there was a negative from Mottet's game Saturday, it was his first-quarter interception which stalled a possible scoring drive.
Montini has become the latest dynasty in Illinois high school football – the Broncos have won the past four Class 5A championships.
The Spartans may very well need to play a near perfect game in order to avoid being knocked out of the playoffs by Montini for the fifth time in seven years.
With all the weapons Sycamore has, the Spartans very well may be able to do that.