HAMPSHIRE – About 24 hours after Sycamore football’s semifinal loss to Montini back in November, Jake Winters, Nick Feuerbach, Ben Niemann and Devin Mottet walked into the high school gym for a shootaround.
The option to rest and relax for a week was on the table for those seniors and other football players crossing over to the hardcourt. A long, taxing and physical grind had just ended with yet another agonizing loss to Montini, one win short of attaining the team’s goal of state.
But they didn’t take the option. Instead, they played the next day in Sycamore’s Strombom tournament, not missing a game. They were far from in basketball shape, but still found ways to contribute immediately.
“They’d probably go nuts if they were sitting around,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “It didn’t surprise me at all.”
Seven months ago Friday was the start of football practice and the beginning of unprecedented athletic success for Sycamore. All those four have done since is help Sycamore put together the best football and basketball seasons in school history.
The 12 football wins and subsequent berth in the state semifinals set new school records and the Spartans’ basketball team won a game in the sectional round for the first time ever. Not to mention the two Northern Illinois Big 12 East titles mixed in as well.
“It’s been amazing. Starting it off, I don’t think we ever could’ve imagined all that we accomplished in those two seasons,” Feuerbach said. “It’s been amazing, a really fun two seasons.”
Outside of Sundays, there hasn’t been a day over that time when those four weren’t wearing a Sycamore jersey. Their lives consumed by two-a-days, film sessions, practices and walk-throughs, not to mention the actual games.
It didn’t seem right that Mottet was forced to sit and watch the final five minutes of Friday’s loss, unable to contribute after fouling out in the fourth quarter. He was the only current Spartan who battled through their 20-loss season in 2011-12, the team’s captain and emotional leader.
As the final possession of Friday’s loss unfolded and Winters’ last-second jumper rimmed out, Mottet stood on the sideline, hands on his hips, jersey collar in his mouth. When the buzzer sounded, his career was over.
For each of the four, there would not be another season to look forward to, no team to help move forward, no next chance to wear the jersey they seemingly hadn’t taken off since August.
But rather than fixate on yet another heart-breaking ending, Mottet chose to focus on the entirety of their work.
“It’s been full go, football to basketball,” Mottet said. “I love this town, I love this team. I couldn’t be happier.”
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.