SYCAMORE - Arming parents with multiple cowbells is one plan coach Joe Ryan has to infuse energy into his Sycamore football team this season.
Short of that, he’s also counting on high-energy players like Dylan Shuman.
A three-year starter for the Spartans on both the offensive and defensive lines, Ryan said Shuman is going to play a big role not only in protecting his quarterback and getting to the other team’s, but keeping the team fired up.
“You’ve got to create your own excitement, right,” Ryan said. “We’re not going to have the student section, or it doesn’t look like it. You’re not going to have those types of things. We’re hoping our parents bring two cowbells apiece, make some noise. (Laughs.) But yeah, you gotta have guys that are willing to be able to do that. No everybody can play that way. But he can, and we have some other kids like that, so hopefully, we build off of that.”
Ryan said Shuman is the glue guy on the line, having played five playoff games in his career. That’s more games than most of the other linemen have played, playoff or otherwise.
Shuman said he’s enjoying being in a leadership position.
“It’s kind of cool to look back when I was the sophomore in this situation,” Shuman said. “I’m now the senior teaching them everything. It’s kind of surreal.”
Of course, two years ago there were no masks, social distancing protocols, or limits on fans in the crowd.
So while he said it’s a little different, he and his teammates are playing the sport he loves a couple months after it didn’t look like they’d be playing at all.
“It doesn’t really change anything. It’s football,” Shuman said. “So what if I have a little cover on my face. So what. I’m fine with it as long as I can play. But it is a little different because there are a lot of unexpected things that can happen. We just have to keep these guys with a good mindset and keep going.”
Shuman was a second-team selection on the Daily Chronicle all-area team last year on a team that ran for 3,000 yards and passed for another 1,500.
That team made it into the Class 5A quarterfinals. But with no postseason this year, Shuman said the team wants to run through the season 6-0 and repeat as Interstate 8 champs.
“Obviously one of our goals is to win every game. All six,” Shuman said. “Last year we were undefeated the conference. This year there’s going to be some closer games, I have the feeling, but we still want to win all six.”
That high motor, Ryan said, can sometimes lead to some counter-intuitive measures.
“I know this sounds crazy, sometimes we have to slow him down a little bit,” Ryan said. “It’s like that old Bill Belichick thing - do your job. Sometimes he’s trying to do everyone else’s job too cause he plays so hard. When he plays within himself and controls his movements, he’s pretty tough to block.”
The season starts March 20 against Kaneland, which took third in the conference last year. The Spartans don’t play reigning second-place team Morris.
“It means a lot to a lot of these seniors,” Shuman said. “It would be nice to say we went back-to-back in our varsity years. But we have some pretty good competition out there so we’re going to have to go 100% every play every game.”