SYCAMORE – Every season, a team takes on its own identity. This year’s Morris football team has so far adopted that of a team that gets better as the game goes on.
Case in point, Friday night’s 28-11 win over Northern Illinois Big 12 East rival Sycamore, a victory that gave the Redskins a tie for their first championship in this conference. Morris, DeKalb and Kaneland all finished with 3-1 records in the conference to tie for the top spot.
The Redskins (7-1, 3-1) had trouble moving the ball in the first half against the Sycamore defense and were able to collect just 46 yards and two first downs on 16 plays in the first half.
On the other side, Sycamore ran 34 offensive plays and had 146 total yards and nine first downs. Even with that disparity, though, Morris was able to limit the Spartans to just three points and trailed 3-0 at halftime.
“I wish I had an answer to some of our first halves this season,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “The defense was huge for us, though. They really kept us in the game by allowing only one field goal. We put them in bad spots and made them be on the field a lot by having so many three-and-out possessions, but they came through when we needed it.”
Morris received the second-half kickoff and was able to pick up a first down before being forced to punt. Austin Hatcher’s kick was downed at the Sycamore 21. After the Spartans picked up a first down, they faced second and 12 after a false start penalty. Sam Brady then sacked Sycamore quarterback Justin Pottorff for a nine-yard loss and the Spartans punted to the Morris 46.
On the first play, Kameron Dransfeldt, who had been held to 29 yards in the first half, broke loose for a 54-yard touchdown run. Sycamore was forced to punt again on its next possession, this time pinning the Redskins at their own 6-yard line.
Morris ran out of a T-formation, and Chatten Dryfhout, who did not have a carry in the first half, carried twice for nine yards and a 15-yard
personal foul was walked off against Sycamore, pushing the ball to the Morris 31.
Two Tyler Petty carries and one by Dransfeldt gave the Redskins a first down at their own 44, and Dryfhout ran through a gaping hole on the left side, broke a tackle and ran 56 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After Trevor Tanke recovered a Sycamore fumble at the Spartans’ 36, Dryfhout struck again. First, he ran for a 30-yard gain to the 4, then, after Petty was stopped for no gain, he went four yards for another touchdown and a 21-3 Morris lead.
“In the second half, we just knew we had to play more together,” Dryfhout said. “We needed to be more excited.
“Those big runs were all the linemen. They got great blocks and so did the backs in front of me. It gave me a one-on-one matchup with the safety, which I will take my chances with every time.”
Tyler Spiezio put the finishing touch on the win soon after Dryfhout’s second touchdown. After Kaden Laurie sacked Pottorff for a 10-yard loss, the Sycamore quarterback dropped back to pass again. Spiezio couldn’t get to him for a sack, so he leaped up to try to swat the ball down.
He did more than that. He caught the ball and brought it down, then took off for a 43-yard interception return that put Morris ahead 28-3 with 6:37 to play.
“That play by Spiezio brought back shades of Danny Friend,” Thorson said. “He [Spiezio] is an athlete and he’s been making plays all year.”
While Thorson was not very happy with the way his team played in the first half, he was proud of the resiliency they showed after intermission.
“I liked the way we bounced back,” he said. “After a bad game last week [a 20-14 loss to Kaneland] and a bad first half this week, it would have been easy for these guys to get down on themselves. But we preach to them that Redskin football is playing four quarters, and that’s what they did.
“It says a lot about the character of this team the way they came back and played in the second half.”