MORRIS — With only three weeks left in the regular season, Morris football coach Alan Thorson knows that there is little room for error for his team.
Following a 34-21 loss to DeKalb last week, the Redskins sit with a 3-3 record. They have plenty of playoff points to qualify for the postseason with a 5-4 record, so two wins in the next three weeks would punch their ticket.
However, that won't be easy, as Sycamore brings a 4-2 record into Morris this week as the Redskins celebrate Homecoming. The Spartans' two losses have come to teams that are both 5-1, DeKalb and Kaneland. Kaneland defeated Sycamore, 28-7, last week. However, Sycamore has handed 5-1 Yorkville its only loss of the year.
"Our backs aren't totally against the wall, but they're close," Thorson said. "We have to win two out of our next three. Obviously, we want to win all three, not just to make sure we're in the playoffs, but to give this team a boost of confidence to make a long run in the playoffs.
"We have lost to good teams. The three teams we have lost to [Washington, Yorkville and DeKalb] have a combined two losses. But those losses have all been the same story for us. We didn't start well in those games and we had some mistakes that hurt us. We need to have more consistency and put together four good quarters of football."
Except for a 49-point outburst against Ottawa two weeks ago, the Morris offense has not scored more than 21 points in a game this season. Thorson would like to see that change this week.
"It seems like we are scoring 21 points every week, but we feel like it should be 30," Thorson said. "We have had way too many turnovers and penalties on drives that have killed us. We move the ball well. Even last week against DeKalb, we were moving it well, but then we would have a penalty or turnover and we wouldn't get any points.
"We work on those things every week at practice. Ball security, proper blocking, good tackling on defense. We work on the fundamentals all the time, but in games, we seem to still make those mistakes. We have to clean it up down the stretch here."
Morris will be taking on a Sycamore team that seems to be a near mirror image of itself. The Spartans' primary method of moving the ball will be on the ground, but they are not afraid to throw it. The defense is aggressive and physical.
Thorson pointed out that running backs Manny Dominguez and Logan Egler are both good runners, while the bulk of the receptions from quarterback Grant McConkey go to receivers Dylan Lozeau and Justin Berlinski.
"They play tough," Thorosn said. "They mix up their offense well. They like to run it, but their quarterback is athletic and can throw it. They run a lot of different sets. They will run some from the wing-T and then they will spread it out. They give you a lot to prepare for as a defense.
"Their defense is good. They are physical and come after you. They are typical Northern Illinois Big 12 East team. They are hungry for their fifth win so they can get in the playoffs. I told our kids that these are two teams that are still fighting for the playoffs, so we have to bring everything we have into this one."
Thorson and the Redskins are prepared for a serious battle.
"Sycamore has some athletes and they are always well-coached. We have had some real good battles with them in the past, and I don't see this one as being any different.
"The way this conference is this year, anyone can win on any night. We knew it would be a tight race and most games, week in and week out, were going to be a toss-up. What we need to do is take advantage of our opportunities and not let mistakes like penalties and turnovers beat us. That's what these games usually come down to."