MORRIS — The Morris football team faced a 14-0 deficit at halftime Friday night during its Homecoming game against Nothern Illinois Big 12 East rival Sycamore.
During his halftime talk to the team, Redskin coach Alan Thorson put forth a challenge.
"We told the kids at halftime that we had to take the second-half kickoff and score," he said.
Morris answered Thorson's challenge, mounting a 12-play drive that consumed nearly six minutes and ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by Chatten Dryfhout. Austin Hastings added the extra point kick and the Sycamore lead was cut in half.
It was up to the Morris defense to keep the Spartans off the board after that, and the Redskins responded. They did not allow another point until Sycamore kicked a field goal with 1:26 left to play. Unfortunately, the Morris offense did not score again and the final score of 17-7 in favor of Syacmore dropped the Redskins to 3-4 on the season (0-3 in the NIB 12 East) and forcing the Redskins into a must-win situation in each of the season's final two weeks in order to qualify for the playoffs.
"We'll definitely see what this team is made of these last two weeks," Thorson said. "We've done it before. We were in this same position in 2014. We were 2-4 and going to Kaneland, and we won our last three games and ended up making the quarterfinals.
"We have to forget about this loss and move forward."
On the sidelines for Sycamore as a volunteer assistant was former Rochelle head coach Kevin Crandall. The Spartans ran almost exclusively from the wing-T formation, which was Crandall's trademark during his long tenure with the Hubs. On their final scoring drive, Sycamore took possession of the ball with 9:08 left in the first quarter and used 15 running plays to chew nearly eight minutes off the clock.
"They ran the wing-T a lot more than we had seen on film," Thorson said. "A lot of that probably was due to the field conditions. They were able to put some drives together and keep our offense off the field."
One of the troubles Morris has had throughout the season was giving up early scores. In three of their games, the opponents have scored a touchdown in the first minute and a half of the game. Friday night, though, was a different story.
Sycamore received the opening kickoff. The Spartans' first two running plays were stopped for a loss and, on 3rd and 12, Morris' Jacob Overbeck intercepted a pass. The Redskins drove to the Sycamore 32-yard line, but were stopped short on a fourth down play.
All in all, Thorson was happy with the way his defense performed.
"Sycamore is a good team and they are going to score," he said. "For us to hold them to three points in the second half was a great job by our kids. If you hold a team to less than 20 points, you are going to win most of those games. If you can tell me that we are going to give up less than 20, I really like our chances. The defense has done a good job for us all year.
"These kids that were on the field for us have a lot of heart. We are battling some injuries, but that happens late in the year, so we aren't making any excuses. The guys who went out there and played did a great job. I think it would be a mistake for anyone to count us out just yet. These kids have a lot of confidence in themselves and we as coaches have a lot of confidence in them."