Illinois High School Football News

2022 Daily Chronicle Prep Football Preview: Sycamore Spartans

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

Sycamore at a glance

Conference: Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White

Coach: Joe Ryan (119-71, 19th season)

2021 record: 9-4, lost to Fenwick, 17-6, in the Class 5A semifinals

Meet the players

Keep an eye on: Burke Gautcher, soph., WR/S. Converted from quarterback, the speedy and strong 6-2, 190-pound sophomore could have an impact on both sides of the ball. Not only does he add depth to an already experienced receiver group, he’s poised to crack the starting lineup alongside three returning players in the secondary.

Also: Eli Meier, sr., QB; Zack Crawford, sr., RB/LB; Joey Puleo, sr., RB/LB; Kayden Galto, sr., WR/CB; Lincoln Cooley, sr., OL/DL; Gable Carrick, jr., OL/DL; Kiefer Tarnoki, sr., LB; Ethan Bode, sr., LB; Dawson Alexander, sr., S;

Sycamore in photos

The Big Idea: Unfinished business

Even though the Spartans reached the semifinals and gave eventual state champ Fenwick one of their closest games of the season, multiple players on the team said they fell short of what they wanted to do.

The Spartans feature 13 returning starters and are looking to go on another lengthy run this year.

“When you have as much experience as we have, depending on how your draw works and all those things and if you stay healthy, the sky is the limit with these guys. There’s a lot of opportunity for them. But there’s a lot of good teams out there that the sky’s limit for them too.”

—  Ryan

“I know we had a big run last year, didn’t quite finish it off the way we wanted to, but our team is always focused on week by week.”

—  Crawford

“It’s hard sometimes, but with our returning players leading the younger players we are taking it one game at a time and focusing on our craft every day.”

—  Alexander

“Last time I checked we’re 0-0. I know that’s coach speak, but, man, if you start looking in your review mirror and thinking you’ve done some really good things, it’s pretty tough to get better at what you want to do the next day. And I think our kids understand that.”

—  Ryan

“The expectation is a lot higher because of how many two-year and three-year starters we have. But holding us to a higher expectation level is helping us because we have to work harder, train harder every single day.”

—  Crawford

What else they’re saying

* Ryan on the flexibility of the offense, which has run multi-set looks extensively the past few years:

“I think we’re even more multiple than what we’ve been. We have so many good receivers and I think our run game looks good. You’ll find out when you start playing other teams but I feel like I’ve been around long enough to know what good is, and we’re getting there. I think we can be so much more multiple from play to play, instead of staying with one thing an entire series.”

* Alexander on the defense:

“I think we’re going to be a really good defense this year. We’re not going to let up a lot of points.”

* Crawford on the offense:

“Offensively we’re looking really good, just as our defense is. We have a lot of specialty players that are returning, a lot of new wide receivers that are looking really good, our line is looking good. All around we’re looking pretty good.

The schedule

All games at 7 p.m. unless noted; an asterisk denotes conference games

August 26DeKalb, 8 p.m.
September 2Oak Forest
September 9at Woodstock*
September 16Ottawa*
September 23at Rochelle
September 30at Kaneland*
October 7vs. Woodstock North*
October 14at La Salle-Peru*
October 21vs. Morris*

The lowdown

There are seven starters returning offense and six on defense for the Spartans. That doesn’t include a player like Ryan Blanken, hurt last season after expecting to make an impact on the line. This season, the senior has moved to center and is expected to make an impact.

Joey Puleo also was hurt early last season, and he’ll play running back and linebacker and has the ability to make an impact doing both. Crawford will add linebacker to his resume this season, and while Ryan said he tries to minimize two-way players the depth at running back will let Crawford take a few plays off to rest him for defense.

Ryan also said the defensive line is a work in progress behind returning Daily Chronicle Player of the Year Lincoln Cooley. He said Tristan Countryman was thrown into the fire last season as a sophomore, but he came out of it stronger and better as a player.

For information