SYCAMORE – You could almost feel it in the chilly, relentless wind that strafed the Sycamore High School football field last Saturday: playoff fever.
“It’s exciting,” Mike Koeplin said.
“It’s nerves and excitement mixed together,” fellow SHS senior McKenna Marcinkowski said.
The two were among a large crowd that watched the second-seeded Spartans – who finished the regular season with their first undefeated season since Pete Johnson’s last year as head coach in 1967 – overwhelm 15th-seeded Antioch, 48-24, in the first round of the IHSA 5A state playoffs. The win moves the Spartans one step closer to possibly playing in their first state championship, which will be held Nov. 29-30 at Huskie Stadium.
As one might expect, playoff games usually draw much larger crowds than regular season ones, SHS athletic director Chauncey Carrick said, sometimes as many as 3,500 to 4,000 fans. Saying 2,200 was their smallest crowd of the season – against Lawndale in week two – Carrick added that the conference title game against Kaneland was comparable to a playoff game. One loss and a team’s season is over.
“Everyone is excited,” Carrick said. “We had tickets go on sale Tuesday (Oct. 29) and when we came back from lunch, people were lined up outside our office waiting for them.”
To show their team spirit last Saturday, many SHS students dressed up. Marcinkowski and SHS senior Jessica Ingram called themselves “super fans” – Ingram colored the left side of her face Spartan gold, while Marcinkowski wore a colorful tutu.
Ingram said they always dress up according to the theme chosen by the student council for the game. Saturday’s theme was Gold Rush.
Koeplin and fellow senior Jeff Schwartz host a regular tailgating party in the parking lot on the east side of the stadium before each game. Schwartz said students can stop by to grill burgers, hot dogs and brats. The 2 p.m. start time of the Nov. 2 game made the tailgating a little inconvenient, he added.
Other local teams advancing to this weekend’s second round are Kaneland and Rochelle. DeKalb and Genoa-Kingston were eliminated.