Morris has defeated DeKalb three times the past three seasons, outscoring the Barbs 136-64, but Morris coach Alan Thorson said the 2013 Barbs hardly resemble past editions.
“I would say they are an improved DeKalb team from what we’ve seen in the past,” Thorson said.
A win over Morris would be pivotal to the Barbs’ pursuit of their fifth playoff berth, and their second since 1989.
They are 3-3 and have 31 opponents’ wins. DeKalb has lost three games against teams that currently have winning records (Hampshire, Sycamore and Kaneland) but have defeated three teams that are now below .500 (Vernon Hills, Ottawa and Streator).
The 2-4 Redskins fall into the latter category.
While DeKalb could lose Friday and still make the playoffs, Morris has no such wiggle room.
“For both of us, it’s a playoff game, basically,” Thorson said. “If we lose, we’re done. They need it as well, so it’s going to be two teams fighting for the playoffs.”
Morris is coming off a 43-21 loss to Sycamore after trailing 24-21 at the end of the third quarter.
Junior running back Jake Walker, who has 74 carries for 693 yards overall, had a season-high 227 yards on 18 attempts during the game.
“I thought our line picked it up a lot from the Yorkville game, and then with them picking it up, it was a lot easier to read holes and run through them,” Walker said. “The line did a lot more. They really improved from last week. They looked really good.”
The Redskins’ 268-yard rushing attack against Sycamore was offset somewhat by the 17 yards their passing game generated.
It was the lowest total of the year for quarterback Griffin Sobol.
“That’s probably the biggest thing this week is we gotta build off of the success we had running the ball, but we have to get better throwing the ball this week, too,” Thorson said.
“Our receivers need to step up and make some catches, and Griff’s gotta work on his accuracy a little this week.”
DeKalb’s offense is centered around the two leading rushers.
Dre Brown has carried 98 times for 736 yards and 12 touchdowns, and quarterback Jack Sauter has 598 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 86 attempts.
Sauter has completed 39-of-82 passes for 380 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
“They run pistol, but double-wing out of the pistol with Brown and two other running backs,” Thorson said. “They’re all really good runners, along with the quarterback. They do a lot of zone reads, and [Sauter will] tuck the ball and hold to it as well.”
The Barbs have allowed a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East-high 170 points.
“Over the last week, we’ve worked a lot more on playing with more of an attitude, and in the Sycamore game you saw that obviously a lot more,” Walker said. “It was just play all four quarters, which is important against a good team like Sycamore. If we play like that all four quarters against DeKalb, good things will happen.”