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Injuries, JCA juggernaut create perfect storm for 2nd-round elimination
JOLIET, ILL.—Even before the Class 5A playoffs began, Kaneland football knew what it could be getting into.
After a convincing win over first-round opponent Hampshire last week, Kaneland would have to deal with Montini Catholic and Sycamore in potential quarterfinal and semifinal matchups.
It was noted football factory Joliet Catholic on the immediate horizon at Joliet Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. With the penchant for big running plays and injuries coming together at an inopportune point for the Knights, Kaneland saw its season end in a 45-8 defeat.
It marked the second straight year that the Knights were tossed in the second round, having lost to host Lincoln-Way West by a 31-15 margin on Nov. 3, 2012.
The previous two seasons saw home semifinal losses to Montini to end those particular seasons.
Kaneland finishes the 2013 campaign at a still-exemplary 9-2, the first year since 2009 that the Knights didn’t finish with a double-digit win total. The loss to the Hilltoppers marked the lowest point total for the Knights since a 42-7 loss to former conference rival Geneva on Oct. 17, 2008.
For the Knights, early-season injuries to running back Jesse Balluff and lineman Zach Thielk converged with the round one back injury to wideout Brandon Bishop, and in-game injuries to quarterback Drew David and lineman Sam Bower to make matters difficult for the visitors.
“David tried to slide as he got hit and hurt his ribs,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said.
David was 6-for-13 for 69 yards before being knocked out of the game. Classmate Tyler Carlson stepped in and went 10-for-18 for 95 yards.
Isaac Swithers ran for 34 yards on seven carries, and John Pruett had 55 yards receiving on five catches.
JCA had 392 yards rushing on the night, paced by Nick Borgra’s and Nick Ivlow’s 140 yards apiece.
KHS began with the ball, saw some openings and moved down the field, thanks to runs by Swithers and David and a pass to Pruett, but the drive stalled after 11 plays and 52 yards following an incomplete pass to Swithers. On the Hilltoppers’ second play from scrimmage, a counter by Ivlow resulted in a 67-yard touchdown scamper with 6:52 to go in the frame, despite Dylan Nauert almost chasing him down.
An additional drive for either team in the quarter stalled, but Joliet Catholic took control in the second quarter. Kaneland had a chance to tie matters with a pass that went through the hands of Pruett in the end zone on a second-and-10 from the 21 of JCA. Two plays later, Matt Rodriguez was wide left on a 38-yard field goal attempt.
Ivlow immediately turned around and rocketed to an 80-yard TD run on the next play with 4:58 remaining in the half for a 14-0 lead. A three-and-out for the Knights gave way to another Hilltopper possession, and Ivlow managed his third touchdown two plays later from 24 yards out, giving the hosts a 21-0 lead with 2:22 before halftime.
Ivlow would cap his astronomical first half on the next drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:06 to go for his fourth touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
The floodgates would open for the Hilltoppers on a 42-yard touchdown run by Borgra with 6:17 left in the third for a 35-0 lead, followed by a 23-yard field goal by Brian Bravo with 4:00 to go for a 38-0 lead, and the running clock kicked in with a 51-yard scoring scamper by Borgra with 29 seconds to go in the third for a 45-0 lead.
Kaneland finally got on the scoreboard with an orchestrated drive that ended on a three-yard run and a two-point catch by Nate Dyer with 6:44 for the final 37-point deficit.
Dyer and company brought their skills the best they could not only throughout the season-ender, but the entire year as well, despite not being at total strength.
“It has been a rough year with injuries,” Dyer said. “Especially on the turf, that’s kind of a nightmare at times for us. Our juniors worked so hard in practice. Everybody is going to talk like all the other schools, saying ‘Our seniors are gone.’ Those kids worked just as hard. I expect them to come back firing.”
“We lost to some good teams this year, but the only thing I can say is just how grateful I am coaching these kids,” Fedderly said. “It was just a tremendous run that we had; unfortunately, when it rained, it poured with the injuries with Bishop, David and Bower. Hats off to (Joliet Catholic), they did a nice job.”