Photo: Quinn Buschbacher (22) has the upper hand as he reels in a pivotal catch during the Knights’ 20-14 win in the Class 5A quarterfinals on Saturday. The 27-yard grab led to his TD run two plays later, giving the Knights a 14-7 lead going into halftime. Photo by Ben Draper
Montini Catholic provides second straight semi challenge
by Mike Slodki
ROCHELLE—Kaneland football has dealt with Northern Illinois Big XII rival Rochelle quite successfully in recent years.
But, they hadn’t dealt with a Hubs squad like this.
With two playoff wins each under their belts, the Knights and Hubs met in Ogle County on Saturday, and much like the previous two KHS wins, it wasn’t decided until very late.
But a fourth quarter touchdown run by Jesse Balluff, coupled with two defensive stands, led to a 20-14 quarterfinal victory.
“I’m glad those kids were able to step up and win the game for us at the end,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “People were doubting the defense a little bit, and I couldn’t be happier or prouder.”
The Knights improve to 12-0 and make the Class 5A State semifinal round for the second straight year, as well as the third in the last six tries.
The Hubs finished at 8-4, but it was a different team than the one Kaneland defeated 35-14, in the fifth game.
Despite having won four meetings in a row, Kaneland was dealing with a Rochelle unit gaining confidence with each playoff win, most recently last week against the Sycamore Spartans.
“Watching them on film, those guys greatly improved, and they were really playing well at the end of the year,” Fedderly said.
Even though Rochelle had a 281-272 edge in total yards, the Knights were helped by Balluff’s 70 yard rushing total, and QB Drew David added 65 yards of his own.
Quinn Buschbacher had 76 yards on four catches.
The threatening rush of Rochelle was led by Marquez Felix with 117 yards on 12 carries, while Will Metzger had 82 yards on 16 carries.
After a first quarter with no scoring, Rochelle drew first blood with a one-yard plunge by Felix with 10 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
With Kaneland looking to answer, David ended an eight-play, 57-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown scamper with 6:42 to go for a 7-7 tie.
“I think I did OK when I had to take the ball and run,” David said. “Other times, I wish I made a different decision. For the most part, as long as we come out with a ‘W,’ it’s fine.”
After Rochelle punted, KHS capitalized with a six-play drive that ended with Buschbacher’s four-yard TD run with 2:02 remaining in the half for a 14-7 lead. The drive was set into high gear after the senior’s 27-yard, one-handed catch.
Felix tied the score on a 58-yard TD run with 9:04 to go in the third quarter for a 14-14 tie.
KHS started the go-ahead drive in the third quarter, but continued in the fourth. Balluff’s number was called three straight times, and went for a 33-yard scoring scamper with 9:53 to go.
“It seemed like (Rochelle) was a lot more physical this time,” Balluff said. “They’re a great team, and I’m afraid every year to play these guys.”
The extra point was blocked, setting a tense 20-14 lead.
Rochelle put together a drive from its own 20 with solid running. Then, on the 13th play of the drive; a fourth-and-one from the Knight 19, Rochelle signal-caller Nick Moore rolled left but was stopped before the first-down marker.
KHS took over with 2:02 remaining, but had to punt four plays later. Rochelle took over at its own 34. Sean Carter nabbed an important sack on a first down from midfield. With the clock running and the Hubs’ out of timeouts, Moore had to air out a pass that sailed over the players’ heads with four ticks left.
The Knights’ semifinal test, Montini Catholic, has lost twice this season, but comes off a 52-27 win over Woodstock’s Marian Central Catholic, ironically, the squad that eliminated Kaneland in the State semis in 2006.
Rally Round the Knights
Kaneland High School has scheduled a pep rally for the football team before the State semifinal, for Saturday, Nov. 19, at 3:30 p.m. in the East Gym.
Doors open at 3:15 p.m.
The Knights and Broncos face each other once again, with a State championship berth on the line.
A year ago, the Broncos ended the Knights’ playoff hopes by a 27-14 final.
Montini has earned state trophies in 2004, 2009 & 2010
How ‘Drew’ doin?
Sophomore QB Drew David becomes the third QB in recent memory to throw for a State semifinal team, following Joe Camiliere and Boone Thorgesen.
Through the first three playoff games in 2011, Drew is 42-for-79 for 727 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT