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Morris has tough test vs. undefeated Sycamore

In the three seasons that Morris and Sycamore have faced off in a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East game, the team that entered with the better record won.

One-loss Sycamore teams were upended by undefeated Morris teams in both 2011, 43-19, and 2012, 13-0. A 6-0 Sycamore team beat a 5-1 Morris team 34-18 in 2010.

The Redskins hope that trend changes Friday night. The Spartans will take a 5-0 record into the game at Morris, which is 2-3.

“They are a really good team, a very talented team, both sides of the ball,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said of the Spartans. “A lot of returning starters coming back on both sides.”

Sycamore has scored 189 points with an offense built around quarterback Devin Mottet. He is the Spartans leading rusher with 357 yards on 56 attempts, and he has completed 35-of-52 pass attempts for 801 yards, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

“He’s a dual threat. He’s a good runner and he’s obviously very good throwing the ball,” Thorson said of Mottet. “I know our defense is gonna have their hands full with him. And then they probably have the best receiver in the conference with [Ben] Niemann also, so we have to make sure we have him covered. Their other guys aren’t bad either.”

Niemann leads Sycamore in receptions with 17, receiving yards with 438 and receiving touchdowns with four, although Alec Kozak, Michael John Poorten and Jake Winters each have at least five catches. Two Spartan backs, Riley Hurley (55 carries, 271 yards) and Dion Hooker (54 carries, 270 yards) have almost identical numbers except in touchdowns, where Hurley has eight to Hooker’s two.

Thorson was encouraged by the Redskins’ defensive effort in a 14-6 loss last week at Yorkville. Morris held the Spartans to 205 total yards and had an interception from Jake Walker. For the season, the Redskins have allowed 112 points.

“Their line’s pretty good sized. As soon as they pull, there’s big gaps,” Morris defensive lineman Josh Garrett said. “As long as our D-line does their job like they have been doing, I don’t think we’ll have a problem with their run game. As long as [our DBs] make sure they don’t get the long runs, long passes, we’ll be fine.”

Morris has scored a league-low 82 points and will face a defense which has allowed 67. Quarterback Griffin Sobol has completed 47-of-88 pass attempts for 486 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions.

Walker has rushed for more yardage (446) than all of his teammates combined on 56 carries, scoring six times. The injured Trevor Allbert remains the Morris leader in receiving yards with 162.

“They really get to the ball fast. They’re a very aggressive defense,” Thorson said. “For us, we have to just work on ourselves getting better and not as much worry about the other teams. It’s just trying to fix the things and get better, and that’s been our focus all year.”

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