The undefeated Spartans (6-0, 3-0 in I8/Kishwaukee) took control of the game starting with the second half kickoff. With the game tied at seven to start the second half, Dawson Alexander ran back the kick to the Knights 47-yard line and the Spartan offense took over from there.
“There’s some things that we learned today that we haven’t faced before,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. “We were down, it was tied at halftime. Nobody panicked. That’s the nice leadership and experience we have on our team.”
The Spartans marched down the short field and punched the ball in on a one-yard dive by Zack Crawford to go up 14-7.
“We started off slow, but we came back in the second half and we showed them how physical and how fast we are as a team and pulled it out in the end,” Crawford said.
The Knights (3-3, 2-2) drove down to the Spartans 34-yard line on the next possession, but were stopped on fourth-and-4 with a pass break up by the Spartans’ defense.
On the next play, Crawford juked his way to the open field after breaking tackles at the line and sprinted down the sideline for a 58-yard run.
“Sometimes it’s not always how it’s drawn up on the white board,” Crawford said. “You see that gap, you get vertical, and you hit it. That time it was just there. I saw it and hit it.”
Crawford finished with nine carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Joey Puleo bowled his way into the end zone two plays later from four yards out to give the Spartans a 21-7 lead with 2:58 left in the third quarter.
After again stopping the Knights on fourth down, the Spartans marched down the field on their only possession of the fourth quarter to ice the game. Tyler Curtis ran seven straight times as the Spartans made their way down the field. Curtis finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush to put the game out of reach.
Curtis had 76 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He also intercepted a pass on defense in the second half.
“We executed on defense in the first half, but in the second half we slowed down,” Kaneland defensive back Aric Johnson said.
Johnson picked off a pass in the end zone to end the first half and keep the game tied at 7-7.
The game had a different feel in the opening quarter as both teams struck quickly.
The Knights came out hot on their first possession, recording a 62-yard TD with less than two minutes gone in the game. Troyer Carlson hit Spallasso streaking down the left sideline for the long bomb to open up the scoring, but it was the only offense that the Knights mustered all night.
“I thought, ‘wow, we’re going to have a shootout,’ but the game didn’t go that way,” Knights coach Pat Ryan said.
The Spartans responded with a grinding drive to tie the game. The Spartans drove down the field on a 14-play drive that ended with a Curtis 5-yard push into the end zone. Sycamore didn’t throw a pass on the drive and took almost eight minutes off the clock.
Both teams’ defense came up big for the rest of the half, especially on fourth down.
The Spartans shut down the Knights on fourth-and-1 inside the red zone on the 16-yard line early in the second quarter.
The Spartans stopped the Knights three times on fourth down in the game.
“We had a hard time running the ball when we needed to,” Ryan said. “When we needed to get it, we just couldn’t do it.”
On the next possession for the Spartans, the Knights returned the favor with a fourth down stop of their own. The Knights stuffed the Spartans on the 35-yard-line to kill the Sycamore scoring chance.
The Knights also stuffed the Spartans on fourth down at their own 15 after a Curtis interception set the Spartans up deep in Knight territory.