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WR, RB spots wide open for Sycamore heading into opener

Sycamore quarterback Brett Bemis hands off during practice Aug. 11 in Sycamore.
Sycamore quarterback Brett Bemis hands off during practice Aug. 11 in Sycamore.

No definite starter at running back. Same thing at wide receiver.

There’s going to be a lot of committees on offense for the Sycamore football team when they open the season tonight against Lincoln-Way West.

Coach Joe Ryan said both the running backs and receiving corps will be wide open, with many players getting playing time in both areas. Kickoff for the game is7:15 p.m. in Sycamore.

Athletic director Chauncey Carrick said that seven players will be suspended for the first two games, but said he could not comment on the nature of the suspensions or who the players were. Coach Ryan said he could not comment on which positions were affected.

Heading into the season, Ryan said Dion Hooker would be carrying most of the load at running back. But at practice earlier this week, he said the backfield was wide open.

“We’ve got a lot of depth back there, so it could be backfield by committee,” Ryan said. “We utilize a lot of kids back there, including fullbacks and running backs. There’s going to be a lot of different numbers back there.”

He did not list any specific names for that position.

At receiver and tight end however, he listed six names of players who could see some action, including Trace Hefler and Matt Coovert.

“We’ve got a lot of parts and a lot of people that can make plays,” Ryan said. “We’ll know more after Friday night than I know right now.”

That will give junior quarterback Brett Bemis plenty of options in his first varsity start.

“There are some things you don’t have when you have a junior quarterback, but that’s OK. We’ve been there before,” Ryan said. “He knows the expectations go his position and what he needs to do to be successful for us.”

The defense is a little more settled, anchored by Brett Weaver at linebacker. Nick Niemann joins him there, with Tanner Watkins back at cornerback, Austin Kosusnik at defensive end and Devin Knight on the defensive line.

“It’s time for the younger guys to prove themselves,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of new names in new spots.”

Even without the seven missing players due to suspension, graduation had depleted last year’s Northern Illinois Big 12 East champs.

“We’re trying to get to know each other,” Ryan said. “We’ve lost a lot of players from last year, so we’re trying to bring a bunch of new guys together and working as one unit.”

The Spartans went undefeated in the regular season – including a 34-21 win over the Warriors – and reached the Class 5A semifinals – including beating the Warriors 21-14 in the quarters. Those were the only two losses the Southwest Suburban Red Conference champs suffered,

“We know they’re really good, there’s no doubt about that,” Ryan said. “I think everybody is going to be up for Week 1. It’s such an exciting week I think everyone is ready to play, whether it’s an opponent that beat you twice last year or someone you’ve never played before.”

Ryan said to come away with a fourth straight win against the Warriors – Sycamore won 19-13 in 2012 – the Spartans have to play smart football.

“In any Week 1 game you have to limit your mistakes,” Ryan said. “That doesn’t mean you play cautious, but when we talk about mistakes we talk about the dumb mistakes. Turnovers are dumb. Normally you can control those. Five-yard penalties, because those are controllable. We’ve got to be very good with our assignments and play hard. I know that’s coach-speak, but those things have to come into play.”

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