Last line of offense
Knight behemoths help Kaneland football in trenches
KANELAND—Throughout the 35-game regular season win streak and 47 wins in the last 52 overall games, Kaneland’s playmakers have made plenty of noise with their actions.
But it’s been said by coach Tom Fedderly in months past that the games are won on the offensive line.
Being charged with the task of protecting quarterbacks like Drew David and predecessor Joe Camaliere, while being asked to clear holes for Jesse Balluff, Isaac Swithers, Nate Dyer and Blake Serpa, is all in a productive night’s work for the Knight offensive line. It’s personnel like seniors Alex Snyder, Shane Jorgensen, Joe Komel, Justin Diddell and Sam Bower that win the offensive battles first, allowing for glory in the endzone later.
With Kaneland securing one playoff win in Class 5A action, the challenge of storied program Joliet Catholic looms, but personnel like Jorgensen (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) just wish to play within themselves, even as two-way players.
Jorgensen, whose older brother Troy was a valuable receiver on the 2006 Class 5A semifinalist team, has tried to keep it business as usual.
“We try to practice just as hard, no matter what jersey we have on,” Jorgensen said. “The Morris game was huge, we just knew we had to bounce back.”
Diddell (6-foot-3, 285 pounds) came into 2013 in a unique situation, having been mostly a defensive lineman, but still maintains the aggressive mentality.
“It’s still nice to hit people. But, the thing is, people took me under their wing and they helped me out throughout practice,” Diddell said. “Every time I’d make a mistake, they helped me out.”
That mode has made a big difference for the first-year O-line talent.
“They don’t just leave me there to die, and I’m just glad I have a group of linemen that know what they’re doing,” Diddell said. “We really get hyped up about our double teams. Then, when we start pancaking people and we start double-teaming them after that, that’s when we get really hyped up.”
Snyder (6-feet-0, 270 pounds) is the elder statesman of the line, and holds the school record for most wins in a four-year span as an individual player for the Kaneland football program.
How much of a change to Snyder’s game has there been?
“I think, physically, I’m more of the same player; mentally, just a lot different,” Snyder said. “I understand a lot more things. Obviously, with maturity and preparing more. But it’s just seeing what someone will do and seeing their tendencies from the first couple of plays.”
With injuries to threats like Balluff and Zach Thielk and a share of dings, bumps and bruises, Snyder and Co. have had to work and persevere through a slew of obstacles in 2013.
“I just think this year, seeing how people have responded kind of helps us through everything. With the Sycamore game, obviously we didn’t want to lose it, but the only thing we could do was bounce back,” Snyder said.
Komel (6-foot-4, 280 pounds), at right tackle, has a full plate of tough draws every game that differs slightly from his linemates.
“The right tackle is responsible for the pocket. Guards and centers are more responsible for the depth. Those defensive ends are coming hard at me and the quarterback, and you’ve got to keep them off,” Komel said. “You get a running start and you’re backpedaling almost, basically.”
With the 2013 postseason the last ride no matter what week it ends, the line responsible for so many breakaway plays breaks it down to its basest form.
“You’ve just got to protect the quarterback as best as possible,” Komel said.
Kaneland’s meeting with Joliet Catholic takes place on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., at Joliet Memorial Stadium.