Sycamore handles Simeon, sets sights on another long playoff run

The Spartans have never won a state title, but coach Joe Ryan has his program knocking on the door.

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Sycamore’s Dylan Hodges (23) carries the ball against Simeon on Saturday at Gately Stadium.

Sycamore’s Dylan Hodges (23) carries the ball against Simeon on Saturday at Gately Stadium.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Sycamore has never won a state title, but coach Joe Ryan has his program knocking on the door.

The Spartans finished 12-1 last season and they have lost to the eventual Class 5A state champions in the semifinals the past two seasons. Sycamore gave Fenwick its toughest test of the playoffs in 2021 and only lost by three points to Nazareth last year.

Ryan has reloaded with a talented group of juniors, led by quarterback Burke Gautcher. He has scholarship offers from Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Gautcher was solid offensively but stood out as a safety in the Spartans’ 28-6 win against Simeon on Saturday at Gately Stadium.

“We knew [Simeon’s] defensive line was really good but we locked in this week in practice,” Gautcher said. “Conditioning is very important when you are playing both sides.”

Gautcher was 3-for-9 passing for 51 yards and had four carries for 20 yards.

Junior Dylan Hodges broke loose for a 92-yard touchdown run late in the first half. That put the Spartans (2-0) ahead 14-0. Simeon scored on a nine-yard touchdown run by Te’shon McGee late in the third quarter to make it 21-6 but the outcome was never really in doubt.

“We executed our plan perfectly,” Sycamore senior Diego Garcia said. “We had a plan to stop them on defense and to make sure their front seven didn’t finish well. That defensive line is obviously big, but that isn’t everything.”

Garcia had 18 carries for 62 yards and one TD. Hodges led the way with six carries for 113 yards and two TDs.

“It was different to play this far from home and in the morning,” Garcia said. “But it was a lot of fun with the big crowd that showed up to support us. I’m glad I got to experience it.”

Simeon (0-2), lost at Wheaton-Warrenville South in Week 1. The Wolverines are still finding their footing under interim coach Derrick Hunter.

Quarterback/receiver Keshaun Parker is the only significant returning player on offense. He was 5-for-8 passing for 18 yards and spent most of the second half playing receiver. Kaleb Sims took over as quarterback on those drives.

“We did fairly well but [Sycamore] has a great team,” Hunter said. “They are going to do well in the playoffs and I think we will too.”

McGee, a transfer from Brother Rice, led the Wolverines with 17 carries for 83 yards.

Simeon has a pair of star defensive linemen, Mikeshun Beeler and Chris Burgess. They game-changers that opponents will have to plan around all season. Beeler, a 6-3, 260-pound senior, has offers from 27 colleges, including Illinois, Nebraska, Oregon and Purdue.

Burgess, a 6-4, 240-pound junior, is one of the most sought-after players in the country with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and more.

“It was not easy, they are good up front and made us work,” Ryan said. “We played just well enough to move the ball. We will get better as the years goes on. But man, that is a tough defensive line.”

Simeon will be favored in five of its next seven games, its remaining major tests will be against Kenwood and Morgan Park

“We need to tighten up on our tackling and being in the right place to make plays,” Hunter said. “If we get our blocking scheme together on offense we will be all right.”

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