Photo: Running back Jesse Balluff heads for the end zone for a score during the first quarter of Kaneland’s 42-0 home victory against Sterling on Friday. Photo by John DiDonna
Kaneland dominates on both sides of ball in 42-0 rout of Sterling
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Kaneland and Sterling’s football programs have had two highly anticipated and dramatic meetings in the last seven seasons.
The battle on Friday in Maple Park was no less anticipated, but maybe less dramatic.
A stifling rush defense and an all-cylinders offense paved the way for a 42-0 win over the visiting and AP-ranked Golden Warriors, raising the Kaneland season mark to 3-0. Sterling fell to 2-1.
KHS saw its regular season win streak extend to 22. The Knights have now won 27 out of their last 29 overall contests.
“Sterling is a playoff-caliber team, and we thought it would be a playoff atmosphere,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “We really wanted to be up and show that we are a good team.”
Quarterback Drew David employed the run at his disposal and was a modest six-of-10 for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Nate Dyer had 70 yards rushing.
Even before they both shared spots in the Northern Illinois Big XII, KHS and Sterling went toe-to-toe in playoff action in recent years.
The Knights and Golden Warriors battled in a 2006 Class 5A quarterfinal playoff game that saw KHS outlast Sterling in overtime, 52-45.
Two years later, Sterling earned a 23-21 win in the first round of the playoffs.
The margin was wider in 2012, and the Knights got into the act early thanks to a 45-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Bishop for his first score of the still-new campaign for a 7-0 lead with 6:11 left in the first frame.
On the next possession, the Knights got mass yardage from Zack Martinelli for a 27-yard gain, and two plays later, running back Jesse Balluff plunged in from the two for a 14-0 lead with 4:11 to go in the first quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same, as a four-play drive from KHS mixed a little of pass and run and ended with a David touchdown run from the three-yard line with 10:16 to go in the second quarter for a 21-0 advantage.
After Sterling’s drive ended in a punt, Balluff, Dyer and David took turns carrying the ball until Dyer punched it in from the four for a 28-0 lead with 4:20 to go in the half.
On a fourth-and-20 from its own 36, a punt snap went awry and was recovered on the 13 by Cole Carlson. Four plays later, Bishop caught a touchdown pass from the seven-yard line on third down to make it 35-0 before halftime with 1:34 remaining.
The third quarter began with a long and sustained drive on the part of KHS. A 14-play drive concluded with a 22-yard TD run by Dyer, who navigated the holes enough to send the game onto a running clock.
It marks the first running clock achieved by Kaneland since a 56-14 win at LaSalle-Peru on Sept. 16, 2011.
It was that kind of day for Sterling football, and it was that kind of day for linebacker Gary Koehring, playing at a high level this year.
It was no different on Friday, as Koehring and the Knights allowed just 78 yards of offense, 45 in the first quarter.
“Our coaches put us in the right spots, and all we’ve got to do is study what they give us on film and hard work; that’s all we’ve got to do,” Koehring said. “I feel that I’m playing better and buying into what the coaches are saying.”
Up ahead for Kaneland is a trip to Streator High School on Friday, Sept. 14, which ends the crossover portion of the 2012 schedule.