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First things first: Big hopes for Sycamore start with first practice

SYCAMORE – Given their performance last year, the players and coaches on the Sycamore football team have some high hopes for the upcoming season.

They hope to build on 2013's Northern Illinois Big 12 East Division title and Class 5A semifinal run. That process kicked off Monday when the Spartans began preseason practices.

Coach Joe Ryan said those goals are much further down the line. First thing first is practice.

"All those things are so far off in the future, you can get lost in that," Ryan said. "And it's the same thing we told last year's group. It's not where you are at the end – it is eventually – but that's not where we are today. We're working to get there, but if all you're trying to do is trying to get there, then the end will be here and the season will be over. And, ultimately, they want to be out here playing. So take advantage of every day you have to get better."

It hasn't been long since the Spartans last practiced. Training camp ended late last month. Still, Ryan said the team definitely was excited to get back on the field.

"We had great movement and a bunch of kids out," Ryan said. "We got a bunch of reps today, and we think we got better."

Senior linebacker Brett Weaver said the morning walkthrough dragged a little, but by the time the team got on the field at around noon, everybody was ready to go.

"We're just trying to get the juices going again," Weaver said. "Everyone's kind of dead, kind of tired, moping around. ... Then we come out, and it's on the captains to get everyone fired up. I think we came out today with a lot of intensity. Everybody's fired up."

The Spartans went 12-1 last year, losing in the Class 5A semifinals to Montini, the fourth time in five years the Broncos eliminated them from the playoffs. Their 31-21 win over Kaneland was their first against the Knights since the 2009 playoffs to earn them their first NI Big 12 West title. The regular season begins against Lincoln-Way West on Aug. 29 at home.

Senior running back Dion Hooker said the team is looking to improve off that, but isn't sure exactly what the team is capable of yet.

"We made it to the fourth round of the playoffs last year, so ..." Hooker said. "I don't know. You can't really tell yet."

Hooker said the goal of a first practice is try to return from July training camps as if they were yesterday, not almost two weeks ago.

"We want to come back strong, like we just finished the last practice before we had that break," Hooker said. "Like we didn't miss a step or anything. Come back strong, high intensity, nice focus."

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