No tornadoes, no lockdowns: DeKalb, Sycamore get off regular practices after two years of turbulance

Sycamore's Burke Gautcher carries the ball Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at the school during their first practice ahead of the upcoming season.

In 2020, lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the football season and with it, obviously, the first day of fall practices.

Last year, multiple tornadoes hit DeKalb County and drove practices indoors Day 1.

On Monday, even though morning thunderstorms drenched the area, DeKalb and Sycamore had their first practices ahead of the 2022 season without a hitch. Genoa-Kingston and Kaneland, however, felt minor impacts because of the heavy rains.

“This year was much better,” DeKalb coach Derek Schneeman said. “I was a little worried because the chance of rain this morning wasn’t too big, then all of a sudden it’s downpouring. But I’m glad we could get out here and get a full practice in.”

DeKalb had its first fall practice Monday afternoon, with its first game slated for Aug. 26 against Sycamore at Huskie Stadium.

Like DeKalb, the Spartans also practiced Monday afternoon to open the season after a summer of 7-on-7s, workouts and joint practices with other teams.

“Luckily we went in the afternoon, so it cleared out for us. It’s a little soggy, but it’s not too bad,” Ryan said. “It turned into a really good first day. Good meetings this morning, good walkthrough stuff, then a good practice today, good tempo.”

The Spartans went 9-4 last season, losing to Fenwick in a Class 5A semifinal to eventual state champ Fenwick.

Cornerback and wide receiver Addison Peck said the team is focused on another deep postseason run.

“Our season got cut short last year, losing in the semifinal” Peck said. “We believe we can get back to that spot and get past that.”

He said the team’s chemistry is excellent this year.

“The bond of this team is insane,” Peck said. “Every single day practice is so much fun. A lot of young guys that are starting this year are balling out,” Peck said. “It’s awesome to see that. It’s a great bond. It’s just going to be a blast this year.”

The Barbs went 2-7 last year, missing the postseason for the first time after qualifying for seven straight seasons.

And even with all the summer workouts, DeKalb wide receiver Cooper Phelps said the first fall practice has a different feel.

“You have to get locked. It’s the first official practice. It’s the season now,” Phelps said. “Everybody is more excited than for summer workouts.”

Genoa-Kingston probably felt the biggest impact. As tradition, they were going to spend Monday and Tuesday at Walcamp Outdoor Ministries and Retreat Center in Kingston but ended up staying at the school for walkthroughs and lifting while the storm passed.

Their scheduled morning practice was moved to the afternoon.

“We just had to adapt and overcome,” G-K coach Cam Davekos said. “It was tornadoes, but there was some flash flooding. So we kind of just waited it out a little bit. We switched up the schedule and adapted. ... I’m always impressed at this group of guys and how they always do a good job of adapting to situations.”

Kaneland was slightly impacted by the storms Day 1 – the Knights’ practices are scheduled for the morning this week, but Monday they pushed it to the afternoon after things dried out.

Coach Pat Ryan said he liked the maturity he saw in his team. A lot of last year’s juniors and sophomores that got playing time for the first time now are more experienced – a nice change after Ryan said last year’s group was the most inexperienced he’d been around.

“We had a lot of energy today for the first day,” Ryan said. “There was that feeling that today really was the first day. In the summer, there’s always the sense that it’s still summer camp. Today it felt a little more real. There was a different energy than there was at the end of camp.”