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‘Star-studded’ Sycamore defense gets second postseason shutout in a row, tops St. Patrick to reach semifinals

The Sycamore sideline celebrates as the defense stops St. Patrick on a fourth down play sealing the win for the Spartans in their IHSA Class 5A state quarterfinal game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE — For the second week in a row, the Sycamore defense came away with a shutout in the postseason, blanking No. 13 St. Patrick, 14-0, to advance to the Class 5A semifinals for the first time since 2016.

“It’s just a heck of a feeling,” said Sycamore cornerback Will Stewart, who had four pass breakups in the win. “It’s a star-studded defense. We’ve got two shutouts in the playoffs and we’re on to another round. I love it. It’s the greatest feeling on Earth.”

After knocking off No. 1 Glenbard South, 34-0, in the second round, the Spartans (9-3) kept firing on all defensive cylinders in the win over the Shamrocks (7-5), holding them to 170 yards of total offense.

Heading into the game, Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said he was worried about sophomore quarterback Jermaine Young turning broken plays into first downs, as well as 6-foot-3, 220-pound running back Alexander Gorowoski.

But the Spartans held the Shamrocks to under 100 rushing yards as a team, with Young running 18 times for 54 yards, and Gorowoski running for 45 yards on 11 carries.

“The defense played outstanding,” Ryan said. “Offense played just well enough to get a couple scores in there to give us a two-score lead. They’re a tough doggone team, and to shut that team out with that quarterback and that running back, that was a pretty good feat for our defense.”

Stewart and the secondary also kept Young from having success throwing the ball. He was 10 of 23 for 92 yards.

Linebacker Ethan Bode, who had a couple big stops of both Gorowoski and Young, said the Spartans had to make sure they were keeping Young accounted for at all times.

“We knew he was a big threat so we knew we had to spy him, get someone on him so he couldn’t get loose,” Bode said. “He’s a big guy, he runs hard. He’s very athletic. So we kept him pressured ... and contained them.”

The Spartans broke through with their first touchdown with 7:06 left in the second quarter when Eli Meier found Jacob O’Donnell for an 11-yard touchdown score two plays after the Spartans were facing a second-and-24 at the St. Patrick 28-yard line.

The drive before, Sycamore was going to convert a fourth-and-2 at the St. Patrick 40, but Zack Crawford fumbled the ball after the catch past the first-down marker. Gorowoski followed with his biggest run of the game, but the defense held and force the punt.

Then after the defense held St. Patrick to a three-and-out to start the second half, Sam Carlson took the first play 50 yards up the left side for a touchdown and a two-score lead.

“It was big,” St. Patrick coach Adam Guerra said. “We kind of had a call to try to get a big play on defense, and they had a better call against it. It’s a really good team, a really well-coached team and that was a good call by them.”

The loss ended the longest playoff run in St. Patrick football history.

“It was a good season,” Guerra said. “We played a brutally tough schedule. We battle some top teams in Illinois, got as far as St. Pat’s has ever gotten in the playoffs. The biggest thing for me is the extra weeks I got to spend with a really special senior class that will go down in the annals of St. Pat’s as one of the best ever. ... You can coach good players, and you can coach good kids and they’re not always necessarily on the same team. This year was special because I got a bunch of good players who are also tremendous young men.”

Carlson ended up with a team-best 71 rushing yards, while Nathaniel Altepeter ran for 70. Meier was effective throwing the ball in the first half, going six for nine for 63 yards and a touchdown. His only pass attempt of the second half was intercepted.

Sycamore finished with 240 yards of offense to just 170 for the Shamrocks.

“It’s really a great feeling,” Ryan said. “It’s really great for the community and great for the kids but hard for the coaches. Now you’re almost on to the next game. I’m going to try to enjoy this one, but when you get to the semifinals it’s just unbelievable talent you’re going to go against.”