LaSalle-Peru's Gaige Noonan runs the ball in the second quarter Oct. 18 while Sycamore's Joey Wolny tries to tackle him.
LaSalle-Peru's Gaige Noonan runs the ball in the second quarter Oct. 18 while Sycamore's Joey Wolny tries to tackle him. — David Toney for Shaw Media

SYCAMORE – Joey Wolny spent a year away from Sycamore after starting as a sophomore.

When he returned for his senior year, neither he nor coach Joe Ryan knew what to expect.

Fast forward a few months, and the Spartans are in the postseason, Wolny leads the team with six sacks and has 70 tackles, third on the team.

“That’s really unheard of. That’s a lot of tackles,” Ryan said. “And you know why? It’s just great effort. And he doesn’t play every down. We rotate those guys around so he gets a couple plays off, and then he’s back in there with a full tank every time he’s in there. His effort, he never quits on a play – not unlike the rest of our defense. But he’s doing at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. That’s a nice advantage.”

Wolny started as a sophomore for the Spartans. Then he moved and attended Plainfield Central last year, where he couldn’t compete in football.

He moved back this year, starting at square one.

“I was expecting a rough start,” Wolny said. “I was going to be at the bottom of the totem pole when I came back. I was going to have to work my way up to be one of the best on the team.”

Ryan said he didn’t know what to expect out of Wolny to start the year, let alone his gaudy defensive numbers – which include two forced fumbles.

“I told him there were no guarantees, and he knew that,” Ryan said. “He knew that there were a lot of great players coming back, and he just wanted to be a part of it. He grew up with these guys, played with these guys a lot. He came in, worked his tail off and earned everything he got.”

Among his assets, Ryan said, is a great motor, his 6-foot-4 frame and his footwork.

“You get him going one way, he sees the play and has really good vision,” Ryan said. “He can redirect back in on the play, and usually he’s there in a bad mood.”

Wolny is part of a Sycamore defense that has given up 59 points this year and has five shutouts. The Spartans are coming off a 16-13 overtime win at home against Montini, beating the Broncos for the first time in seven attempts.

Now they get Boylan Catholic at 1:30 p.m. Saturday – a Titans team that passes the ball effectively.

And even though he didn’t know what his season was going to look like or what his role was going to be, Wolny is not only the Spartans’ leading pass rusher, but also one of its leading tacklers from a position not known to produce a lot of tackles.

“It’s given me a lot more confidence,” Wolny said. “I know I can do a lot more than I used to think.”