MORRIS — It's not easy for a football team to do much when the other team has the ball for most of the game.
That's what Morris found out Friday night, as Northern Illinois Big 12 East rival Sycamore used the run almost exclusively and handed the Redskins a 17-7 Homecoming defeat. The loss drops Morris to 3-4, and the Redskins need to win their final two games - at Kaneland and at home against LaSalle-Peru - to become playoff eligible.
The Redskin defense, which had allowed a touchdown within the first minute and a half of three different games, came up big early when Jacob Overbeck intercepted a Sycamore pass on the Spartans' first drive. It was the only pass Sycamore quarterback Grant McConkey attempted.
Morris (3-4, 0-3) drove to the Sycamore 32, but gave the ball up on downs. The Spartans then embarked on a 12-play drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown run by Manuel Dominguez. McConkey's kick gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead with :59.8 left in the first quarter.
The Redskins again drove deep into Sycamore territory, only to surrender the ball on downs at the Spartans' 24.
Sycamore took over with 7:22 left in the second quarter. Running exclusively out of the wing-T, the Spartans chewed up yardage and time before Logan Egler scored from a yard out with :22.2 left until halftime, giving the Spartans a 14-0 lead at intermission. Egler finished with 95 rushing yards on 24 carries, while Dominguez ran for 83 yards on 14 attempts. All told, 50 of Sycamore's 51 offensive plays were on the ground.
"They ran the wing-T a lot more than they usually do tonight," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "The conditions probably had something to do with that. Give them credit. They put a couple of drives together and kept our offense off the field."
Morris got the ball to start the second half and began a long drive of their own. When Chatten Dryfhout (19 carries, 46 yards) scored from seven yards out, the Redskins had used up nearly half of the third quarter and cut the lead to 14-7.
"The guys did exactly what we told them they needed to do at halftime," Thorson said. "We had to come out and score, and we did. And, our defense did a good job in the second half, holding them to three points. We just weren't able to finish a few of our own drives.
"If you look at most of the games we have lost, we have won three of the four quarters. But, we get ourselves down early to good teams, and that's very hard to come back from."
Morris quarterback Mitchell Mayberry completed 13 of 23 passes for 149 yards. Zach Reddinger had four receptions for 37 yards, while Dryfhout (51 yards) and Overbeck (38 yards) each caught three passes.
"We had a lot of kids banged up, and they showed a lot of heart," Thorson said. "The kids that were out there playing tonight, I can't say enough about. They played hard and gave us everything they had.
"Our backs are against the wall, but we have a lot of kids with a lot of heart, and no one should count us out yet."