Sycamore High School coach Scott Dattilo is the first to admit his football team isn’t flashy.
Led by an effective ground game and the top defense in the Greater Miami Conference, the Aviators pounded out a 24-13 win over Hamilton in front of a homecoming crowd at Virgil Schwarm Stadium on Friday night.
Jackson Stewart and Iris Rodriguez were named homecoming king and queen at halftime.
Jordan McConnell had 106 yards and Jonathan Malek added 93 as the Aviators ground out 205 rushing yards while holding the Big Blue to 273 total yards to improve to 5-2, 3-2 GMC.
“This was a tough one. We had to grind it out,” Dattilo said. “This was a tough week for us. We had the tough loss last week (against Fairfield) and didn’t practice all that great, so I was really nervous coming in here against a good Hamilton High team. I know their record doesn’t show it, but (HHS coach Chad) Murphy is doing it right. They have a lot of talent on that team, and I don’t think our guys realize how big a win that was.”
After stopping Hamilton on downs on the initial possession, the Aviators used the rest of the first quarter on a 16-play scoring drive. Quarterback Drew Altemuehle scored on a 4-yard run.
The score was 7-0 at half, but HHS had its chances. In addition to the opening 10-play drive, the Big Blue also had a eight-play drive in the second quarter that came up empty when Khaliyal Sowell was stopped just short on a fourth down keeper at the Sycamore 30.
“We had momentum so many times and didn’t seize the moment,” Murphy said. “We just need to keep harping on them about the mistakes and penalties. We are knocking on the daggone door. We are so close to being a good football team, but we have to quit making mistakes.”
Early in the third, Hamilton stopped the Aviators, but committed a personal foul after the play that gave Sycamore a first down. Malek then went untouched up the middle 48 yards for a score.
Hamilton got on the board on the next series when Johnny Jones took a short pass and outran Sycamore the final 63 yards for a score.
The Big Blue forced a punt on the next possession and Jones sent the crowd into hysterics when he returned it all the way for a score, but he was ruled out of bounds at the Hamilton 45. Three plays later, Hamilton fumbled and the Aviators recovered.
It appeared HHS held Sycamore, but the Aviators gained 10 yards on a fake punt before it scored on McConnell’s 3-yard run.
“I thought our defense played well,” Murphy said. “We had every opportunity to win. We had every opportunity to make a play.”
Hamilton cut the lead to 21-13 early in the final quarter when Jones picked up a fumble and scored but the Aviators responded with a 13-play minute drive that was capped off by Jacob Hasselbeck’s 22-yard field goal.
“We would have liked to knock it in for a touchdown, but I will take the field goal,” Dattilo said. “We feel we are a good football team, and good teams do things like that. It isn’t something you can coach. It is just a drive good teams do to win games.”
Altemuehle completed 11 of 15 passes for 104 yards and no turnovers for Sycamore. Myron Williams caught five passes for 48 yards.
Maleek Jarrett had 69 rushing yards and Sowell added 67 (both had 13 carries) to lead Big Blue, which fell to 2-5, 2-3 GMC.
Next Friday, Hamilton travels to Lakota East and the Aviators visit Oak Hills.
S: Drew Altemuehle 3 run (Jacob Hasselbeck kick)
S: Jonathan Malek 48 run (Hasselbeck kick)
H: Johnny Jones 63 pass from Khaliyal Sowell (Gabby Oliva kick)
S: Jordan McConnell 3 run (Hasselbeck kick)
H: Jones recovered fumble in end zone (Kick failed)
S: Hasselbeck 22 field goal