Category Archives: Football

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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.

file photos

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Playoff round 1: Kaneland (8-1) vs. Hampshire (6-3)

Friday night @ 7 p.m.
Peterson Field, Maple Park, IL

Kaneland’s Class 5A playoff journey begins with a home matchup as a No. 5 seed against the 6-3 Hampshire Whip-purs,
a No. 12 seed, on Friday at 7 p.m.

The winner faces either No. 4 Joliet Catholic or No. 13 Urban Prep Charter/Englewood of Chicago the following week.

While Kaneland outscored foes by an average of 40-12, Hampshire outscored its opponents by an average of 32-23. Hampshire, coached by Dan Cavanaugh in his 25th season, enters the playoff hunt after a 3-6 record in 2012.

The Whip-purs, of the Fox Valley Conference’s Fox Division, had its three losses come at the hands of Crystal Lake Central, Grayslake North and Cary-Grove. The Knights and Whip-purs had a common opponent in the form of DeKalb, which lost to Kaneland, 35-12, and Hampshire in a 35-34 slugfest.

Hampshire is in the postseason action for the first time since 2008 when it was a 4A school. Kaneland has Hampshire as a first round opponent after dealing with Belvidere in 2011 and 2012, with the Knights looking to remedy a second-round elimination at the hands of Lincoln-Way West a year ago.

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More like it at Morris

Knights recover nicely from Sycamore setback, finish regular season 8-1
MORRIS, ILL.—One never knows how the usual Week 9 regular season battles between the Kaneland Knights and Morris Redskins will go.

Luckily, the Friday gridiron battle decided to go the way of the Knights for the fourth-straight instance.

Coming off of their first regular season loss in 35 games the week prior in Sycamore, the Knights perhaps started a whole new streak against a scuffling Morris squad in a 49-14 rout.

Kaneland finishes the regular season at 8-1 (4-1 Northern Illinois Big XII), while Morris (3-6, 1-4 NIB-12).

Kaneland ends the regular season with its sixth straight winning record, and 18th winning record in the last 19 tries. Morris was eliminated from playoff contention a year after completing a State runner-up appearance in 2012.

“I was really happy with how we came out,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “Especially on the first drive, we marched right down and scored. So, I was really happy and just wondering how the kids were going to respond.”

Quarterback Drew David had 204 yards passing on 12 of 24 passing attempts.

The first quarter started well enough for KHS, with David moving 35 yards off a read option. Four plays later, Isaac Swithers (101 yards, 12 carries) shrugged off contact and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 9:41 left in the first for a 7-0 lead.

On Morris’ second drive, Jake Walker took the handoff and exploited a hole for an 84-yard touchdown run with 8:03 to go that tied the score at 7-7.

Three Kaneland drives later, the Knights used Swithers’ runs to set up a pass up the middle to Dylan Nauert for a 16-yard score with 1:46 left and a 14-7 lead. Nauert had 71 yards receiving on the night.

Nauert would find paydirt again with a sprint up the middle for a 41-yard touchdown run, with Tyler Carlson catching the two-point try and a 22-7 lead with two ticks left in the frame.

“We didn’t play up to our best last week,” Nauert said. “We wanted to come back this week and just (proves) that that’s not our team. Morris is always a fun game.”

After both teams traded interceptions, including one by Carlson, Kaneland would get the ball back and Nate Dyer would spin off a would-be tackler en route to an 18-yard touchdown run and a 29-7 advantage with 8:43 before the half.

The next two drives would pay dividends for KHS, thanks to a six-yard run by Swithers with 4:47 to go to make it 36-7, and a five-yard deep ball to Brandon Bishop for a 42-7 edge just 20 seconds before the break.

The Knights’ final regular season touchdown came thanks to Swithers from the 24-yard line of the Redskins just 17 seconds into the third quarter, triggering the running clock with a 49-7 lead. Kaneland had taken over after one Morris play due to a fumble recovery.

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Saturday’s IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to Comcast SportsNet

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoff Pairing Show will return to Comcast SportsNet Chicago again in 2013. Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the television home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, will produce the show in HD when it airs live from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26.

The show, which will reveal the brackets and first round match-ups of all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes, can also be viewed via live interactive stream on the internet at IHSA.tv and CSNChicago.com.

“The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show’ continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn’t be prouder to showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage to our on-air and online viewers on Saturday night,” said Phil Bedella, VP/GM of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Marian Central Catholic (Woodstock) alum and CSN anchor Jen Lada will host the show and be joined by a panel of experts on-set, including long-time IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard and Kankakee Daily Journal sportswriter and Illinois high school football bracketologist Steve Soucie. IHSA TV veteran and Rockford WTVO reporter Matt Rodewald will manage the interactive desk, chatting with fans via social media and taking their questions to the air. CSN prep football expert “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran will also join the show in-studio for the first time. Fans who want to interact with the show are encouraged to use the hashtag #IHSA.

The program will once again feature coach and media guests from around the state, while CSN camera crews will be roaming the Land of Lincoln catching live reactions from school parties.

In addition, for the first-time ever, fans will get to choose one of the coaches who will be interviewed on the show via voting online at CSNChicago.com/Preps and Twitter. Each of the coaches below can be voted for via poll on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago website (CSNChicago.com/Preps) or by accessing @IHSAState on Twitter and “retweeting” and “favoriting” the tweet for their favorite team’s coach.

1A Matt Leng, Fisher High School
2A Mike McElroy, Elverado-Trico Coop (Elkville)
3A Tim Nolen, Robinson High School
4A Anthony Faltin, Walter Payton College Prep (Chicago)
5A Darin Driscoll, Limestone High School (Bartonville)
6A Rick Little, Quincy High School
7A Joe Wardynski, Wheaton North High School
8A Craig Buzea, Homewood-Flossmoor High School

“This is one of the most exciting nights of the year,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “It is a great opportunity for teams and communities to come together and celebrate their accomplishments from the regular-season. This show has become an IHSA tradition, and we are proud to partner with Comcast SportsNet Chicago, who does so much to enhance the experience for viewers across the state and country.”

The pairings show will be distributed to Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s entire viewing territory. Viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com to find the exact channel locations in their area or the IHSA’s channel finder by market.

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Friday Preview: Kaneland (7-1) @ Morris (3-5)

With playoff placing on the line, Kaneland travels to Grundy County to face the Morris Redskins on Friday, Oct. 24.

Morris, under fourth-year coach Alan Thorson, beat visiting Rochelle by a final of 31-28, but will fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000 with a 3-5 record. The Redskins were runners-up in last year’s Class 5A State Championship game and had been to a title game four times in the last 10 years.

Since becoming conference mates in the NIB-12 in 2010, Kaneland has won every meeting, but not without drama. After handling the visiting Redskins 47-7 in 2010, the Knights escaped Morris with a tight 31-28 win in 2011, and won on a last-second catch in Maple Park by Zach Martinelli in 2012 by a 33-30 margin.

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First setback

Photo: Senior John Pruett makes an athletic grab in Kaneland’s 31-21 loss to Sycamore Friday. Pruett had five receptions for 91 yards—a game high. Photos by Patti Wilk

Sycamore hands Kaneland its first regular season loss since 2009
SYCAMORE—It’s comforting that Friday’s post-game feeling took some getting used to for Kaneland High School football and its fans, but it didn’t make Friday’s 31-21 loss any better in the end.

In front of a boisterous Spartan crowd, the Sycamore hosts (8-0, 4-0 NIB-12), ranked No. 1 in the IHSA Class 5A playoff outlook, took advantage of an early-fourth quarter turnover and clutch third- and fourth-down conversions in the fourth frame to subdue the Knights, ranked No. 3 in the playoff outlook going into the game.

For the Knights (7-1, 3-1 NIB-12), it signaled the stoppage of a 35-game regular season win streak, and the first-ever loss suffered in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play since the 2010 inception. The last regular season loss Kaneland suffered was to Geneva on Oct. 16, 2009, in the dying days of the Western Sun Conference, 27-24 in overtime.

Kaneland has still won 49 of its last 54 overall contests.

Sycamore, which effectively clinched the NIB-12 East division, travels to Yorkville for Week 9, and tries to clinch an undefeated campaign against the playoff-hunting Foxes.

“Our guys didn’t let up, but those guys made plays and slung the ball, and they executed,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said.

John Pruett had 91 yards receiving for the Knights, while Drew David had 248 yards passing and 69 yards on the ground.

Kaneland drew first blood with ball-control on the first drive of the game, converting on a five-yard touchdown run by Isaac Swithers with 7:37 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 edge.

Sycamore got on the scoreboard exactly four minutes into the second quarter on a 30-yard field goal to cut the margin to 7-3, but KHS used six plays to score again on a nine-yard floater from Drew David to running back Nate Dyer by the edge of the end zone. The touchdown made it 14-3 with 5:28 to go in the half.

The Spartans got momentum back when reserve quarterback Nick Feuerbach, in for usual starter Devin Mottet, scampered for a 30-yard touchdown run and cut it to 14-10 with 3:15 to go in the half. The Knights’ ensuing drive came up barren after a 25-yard field goal attempt by Matt Rodriguez missed before halftime.

Sycamore punched through to begin the third quarter scoring thanks to a Dion Hooker run from the 11-yard line, giving the home squad a 17-14 lead with 9:03 left in the third.

Kaneland’s next drive featured a clutch 3rd-and-31 pass to John Pruett for a first down, and it was followed by a 28-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Brandon Bishop to give the Knights a 21-17 lead with 5:21 left in the frame.

The fourth quarter turned out to be decidedly in the Spartans’ favor on both sides of the ball. A David pass was tipped and intercepted by Jack Dargis at the Kaneland 44 and returned 14 yards to the Knight 30. Three plays later, Riley Hurley took it in from the 1-yard line for a 24-21 Sycamore edge just 48 seconds into the fourth.

Kaneland’s next drive ended in a punt, and Sycamore went on the offensive. A seven-play ended with a fourth-and-two desperation pass to Colan Treml for a 20-yard touchdown and a 31-21 lead with 5:11 to play.

Kaneland’s next drives came up empty after 14 plays with a short 35-yard field goal try and an interception, sending the longest win streak in the Chicagoland area up in smoke.

“We were playing for a conference championship, and that’s all we were worried about. All the other stuff I could care less about,” Fedderly said.

Photos by Patti Wilk

Friday Preview: Kaneland (7-0) @ Sycamore (7-0)

7:30 p.m. at Engh Field, Sycamore
The NIB-12 East title is on the line, as the two top teams clash at Sycamore’s Engh Field Friday at 7:30 p.m.

While Sycamore returned a number of key starters from their deep playoff run in 2012, where they lost to eventual State Champion Montini in the semifinals, not having star running Dion Hooker (leg) available the last few weeks is a huge blow to the Spartans. However, backup Riley Hurley rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns last week, and Sycamore QB Deven Mottet is a threat through the air and with his feet.

Sycamore’s route to being undefeated had them defeating Lincoln-Way West 34-21 in week one, and includes a 42-33 win at Rochelle last Friday without Hooker. Lincoln-Way West was the team that defeated the Knights in the first round of the playoffs last year, and the Knights defeated Rochelle earlier this season 49-20.

Sycamore has scored 274 points this season, and given up just 121. The Knights have scored more (287) and given up less than half the points (60) through seven games.

The last time the Spartans defeated the Knights was in the 2009 playoffs. After a 21-14 regular season win that year, Sycamore turned it around on the Knights, defeating them in the first round of the IHSA playoffs 40-13. Kaneland’s last regular-season loss to the Spartans dates back to head coach Tom Fedderly’s first year, when Sycamore won 37-7. The Knights were 4-5 that year.

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The fox is silent

Big third quarter dooms Yorkville as KHS (7-0) steamrolls
KANELAND—It’s been a one-sided battle for a while, but with only a 13-0 halftime lead on senior night, the Knights made all the necessary adjustments.

Despite the sluggish first half during Friday night’s contest at Peterson Field against visiting Yorkville, the Knights turned it on with an explosive third quarter enroute to a 41-0 thumping of the Foxes.

The Foxes have not defeated Kaneland since 2002 when they won 34-13. That was also Yorkville’s last winning season—they went 6-4, getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Geneseo’s Darnall high school. Since the 2003 season, Kaneland has outscored the Foxes 405-59.

The win vaults KHS to 7-0, and 3-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII East Division. Kaneland remains undefeated in conference play, dating back to the formation of the NIB-12, and has now tallied 34 consecutive regular season wins.

The Knight defense was stellar, holding the visitors to just 56 total yards of offense: 45 passing and 11 rushing. In fact, Kaneland gave away more yards to the Foxes via penalties—10 penalties for 75 yards.

Senior Dylan Nauert had a nice first half, which included a 42-yard touchdown. Nauert led all rushers with 52 yards and two touchdowns, the second coming in a 21-point third quarter frenzy.

Drew David hooked up with Brandon Bishop twice for touchdown passes, once in the second quarter for 34 yards and another in the third quarter for 37 yards. Bishop ended the game with 83 yards to lead the game. Connor Fedderly also got on the score sheet, hauling in a 20 yard pass from David in the third.

The senior QB David was 13 for 21 for 198 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions on the night.

Piling on the defensive stats with KHS interceptions were Isaac Swithers, Grant Wooten and Cole Carlson. Carlson’s interception was returned for a touchdown to make it 40-0 and start the running clock with 9:46 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. A Matt Rodriguez PAT made it 41 to finish the KHS scoring.


Photos by Ben Draper

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Kaneland (6-0) vs. Yorkville (4-2)

at Kaneland High School’s Peterson Field at 7:30 p.m.
On Friday, Oct. 11, the Knights host Yorkville High School in a Week 7 NIB-12 battle. The Foxes traveled to Rochelle on Friday, only to lose in a 30-14 clash. Yorkville fell to 4-2 with a 1-1 NIB-12 mark, on the heels of upsetting the Morris Redskins in Week 6 for the first victory over the Grundy County program in 51 years. YHS has lost two of its last three after emerging with a 3-0 start.

The Foxes are coached by area legend Karl Hoinkes, who began with Yorkville in 2011 after having been a longtime coach at Oswego High School.

On Oct. 5, 2012, Kaneland slammed Yorkville at Campbell Field by a final of 55-0, and have solved the Foxes by a combined score of 134-20 the last three encounters.

Nate Dyer had 62 yards in Kaneland’s 35-12 triumph at DeKalb Friday. Photo by Patti Wilk

By the numbers

KHS increases regular season win streak to 34 with NIB-12 win at DeKalb
DEKALB—Kaneland and DeKalb have had quite the football battles the last two years.

In 2011, Kaneland found itself visiting the new Dresser Road turf for the first time and down 31-14 before staging a monster second-half comeback in a 49-38 win.

Last year, the Knights put up 66 points on the visiting Barbs.

On Friday, the process was a little more elementary: withstand big plays, ball-control-tinged running, and key passes, leading to a 35-12 win at DeKalb High School.

The win marked the 34th consecutive win for Kaneland football in the regular season. Kaneland improved to a playoff-qualified 6-0 and 2-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII East division, and has never lost a conference game in the group that began in the 2010 season.

DeKalb fell to 3-3, with an 0-2 mark in conference play. Kaneland has never lost to DeKalb in eight straight conference meetings.

“We’ve got a lot a lot of respect for their coach (former Belvidere coach Matt Weckler), and we’ve played him the last two years in the first round,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “We have a lot of respect for that offense. They spread themselves out and get into space. If you make one mistake they can make a big play, as we saw. We’re really happy to hold these guys to 12 points.”

For the Knights, Drew David threw three touchdown passes on a night where he was 16-for-26 for 330 yards.

DeKalb running back Dre Brown had 130 yards rushing, a game-high.

After an opening DeKalb drive came up empty, Kaneland used Isaac Swithers (71 yards) and Nate Dyer (62 yards) to move the ball from their own 14-yard line. David mixed in a pass to Brandon Bishop (five catches, 65 yards) before rolling out and throwing a deep ball to tight end Tyler Slamans for a 31-yard touchdown. Slamans’ first-ever varsity TD gave KHS a 7-0 lead with 3:33 to go in the frame. After the Barbs punted another drive away, David found wideout Connor Fedderly for a 27-yard completion, and a bomb in stride to John Pruett (85 yards receiving) for a 58-yard scoring strike and a 14-0 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter.

DeKalb gathered some momentum back when the second play of the next drive yielded a 77-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jack Sauter up the middle to make it 14-6 with 25 ticks left in the quarter.

The lone scoring drive in the second quarter ended with a six-yard run up the middle by Swithers to make it 21-6 with 6:41 to go in the half. The next two scoring opportunities for Kaneland ended with a blocked field goal and an interception.

Asked to carry more of a load along with Dyer, with an accent on speed for the ground game, Swithers is feeling more comfortable.

“Jesse went down so I just stepped in at running back, and I played last year, but I have to fill his shoes,” Swithers said. “I’m a lot faster on the turf, it’s a nice place to play.”

In the third quarter, the Barbs forced Kaneland to punt and converted on an 89-yard touchdown scamper by Brown to close within 21-12 with 8:50 remaining in the third. After Brown fumbled the ball away to Kaneland two drives later, the Knights used a couple of runs by Swithers, a pass to Dylan Nauert, a run by David and a two-yard touchdown run by Dyer to make it 28-12 with 2:14 to go in the third.

The lone score in the fourth quarter came on a David conversion from the eight-yard line with 9:39 remaining for the final 23-point margin.

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Friday preview: Kaneland (5-0) @ DeKalb (3-2)

Friday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Kaneland travels to DeKalb High School for its next challenge on Friday, Oct. 4. The Knights have beaten the Barbs seven straight times since the regular meetings began in 2006, including an afternoon contest in 2009 for DeKalb’s homecoming, 35-6, a 49-38 comeback win from a 17-point deficit on DeKalb’s turf in 2011, and last year’s 66-23 trouncing.

DeKalb comes into the Friday contest with a record of 3-2 (0-1 NIB-12). The Barbs solved Streator with a 42-14 road win last Friday and have averaged 41 points per win. The Barbs are coached by first-year head man and former Belvidere Bucs coach Matt Weckler who is well-versed in facing the Knights. Weckler and Co. were eliminated by the Knights in the past two Class 5A postseason first rounds.

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Taking charge

Kaneland ends back-and-forth with strong 2nd half vs. Rochelle
KANELAND—After a tight, back-and-forth first half between Kaneland and Rochelle on Friday night in Maple Park, the Northern Illinois Big XII East division opener turned the tide on a half-ending touchdown pass from Drew David to John Pruett that gave KHS the lead for good at 21-20.

Kaneland would then go on to score four unanswered touchdowns in the 49-20 win over the visiting Hubs. The meeting marked the end of the regular rotation of meetings between the two schools that began with the formation of the now-dead Western Sun Conference for the 2006 season.

Rochelle is scheduled to move to the West division in the NIB-12 landscape to offset the departure of Dixon and Streator in 2014. The East division will then consist of DeKalb, Kaneland, Morris, Sycamore and Yorkville.

Kaneland improved to 5-0 (1-0 NIB-12), while Rochelle dropped to 4-1 (0-1 NIB-12). It marked the seventh consecutive win for KHS over the Hubs, dating back to a 16-12 win in 2008 thanks to a TD by current Elmhurst College QB Joe Camaliere. Kaneland also managed two victories in 2011 over the Hubs that included a 20-14 Class 5A State quarterfinal.

David was 10-of-20 for 177 yards, two scoring strikes and one interception. The senior signal-caller also had a 58-yard touchdown scamper put forth in motion by key blocks by the line and a receiver in the fourth quarter.

Running back Isaac Swithers, carrying the bulk of the running plays with senior Jesse Balluff out for 2013 with a knee injury, rushed 14 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. Pruett had four catches for 82 yards and two scores, while Dylan Nauert had four catches for 69 yards.

“We just talked about on our end, doing what we do better than the mistakes we were making,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “I just think with what we saw they were doing, I thought there were a couple of things we could take advantage of. We’ve got a lot of weapons. We can throw when we have to, and we can run when we have to.”

The scoring started almost immediately, as Nauert returned the game’s opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown just 17 seconds into the game. Rochelle’s Evan White returned the favor from 96 yards on the ensuing kickoff 15 seconds later, but the extra-point attempt missed for a 7-6 score.

Kaneland then took six minutes to drive for another first-quarter score. A 12-play, 61-yard drive that featured nine runs ended with a five-yard score from running back Nate Dyer with 5:28 to go. A two-point attempt to linebacker Cole Carlson made it 15-6, Kaneland.

The Wing-T formation-leading Hubs took over and went 50 yards in seven plays, ending with a four-yard touchdown by Marquez Felix to make it 15-12 with 1:48 remaining in the first.

Rochelle went on top in the second quarter on a White touchdown run from the nine with 3:04 to go in the half. A Keegan Akers catch was good for the two-point try to send Kaneland into a 20-15 hole.

Kaneland lost the ball on a Rochelle interception, but after holding Rochelle on downs, Kaneland went seven plays for 62 yards for a David-to-Pruett score in the corner of the end zone for 26 yards to go into the locker room up 21-20. The score offset a Nauert TD pass from 16-yards that was negated by a penalty.

“We just ran our offense,” Pruett said. “We just had the open guys, I guess. Whoever Drew threw to, we tried to make plays.”

The lone scoring drive for Kaneland in the third quarter came on a 19-yard scamper by Swithers with 8:42 left in the frame for a 28-20 lead.

Kaneland’s next three touchdowns came within the span of five offensive plays in the fourth quarter. Dyer scored from the one with 11:06 to go for a 35-20 lead. Pruett caught his second TD pass with 7:18 remaining to go up 42-20, and the David rush to daylight capped the scoring with 4:55 left in the game.

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Streat Talk

Kaneland (4-0) subdues Streator in inter-divisional game
KANELAND—Friday’s result from Peterson Field in Maple Park was a familiar one.

But Kaneland football was a different unit against visiting Streator, and will be for the remainder of 2013.

The MRI on Tuesday for running back Jesse Balluff revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament after suffering the injury in the Sept. 13 victory in Sterling.

Still, Balluff was a presence on the sidelines, reassuring fellow Knights as they came off the sidelines in the 42-0 win over the Bulldogs of the Northern Illinois Big XII West division.

“That’s just the guy Jesse is,” Knights quarterback Drew David said. “Doesn’t matter if he’s playing or not, he always comes with a smile on his face. Everyone feels terrible for him, and we just tried to rally around him.”

Any further success in 2013 will have to come without the senior ball-carrier, making future wins bittersweet.

“(Jesse)’s such an important part of our team, and such a good friend to all these kids. To have him out here and be vocal and be a team leader, and elected team captain, we expect him to be a leader, and that’s what he is on the sidelines,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said.

The win marked the 32nd consecutive regular season win for the Knights, and signified the last meeting on the football field between the two squads for the foreseeable future. Streator, the southern-most NIB-12 school, departs for the Interstate Eight Conference for the 2014-15 school year.

Kaneland won the home-and-home series by a combined score of 83-0.

Kaneland had 133 yards courtesy of several ballcarriers on the ground as part of a collective effort.

David was 17-of-24 for 272 yards and five touchdown passes, with one pick. Connor Fedderly caught six passes for 59 yards, while teammate Brandon Bishop had four catches for 110 yards.

Kaneland had 405 yards gained through the night, compared to just 76 for the visiting Bulldogs.

John Pruett caught the first of his three touchdowns from 14 yards out to kick off the scoring, giving KHS a 6-0 lead with 8:29 left in the first quarter. David would score on a 17-yard scramble to make it 13-0 with 1:41 remaining in the frame.

In the second quarter, Bishop caught a short pass near the sideline on the first offensive play and went 59 yards for a score to make it 20-0 just 11 ticks into the frame.

After linebacker Cole Carlson put an end to the next Streator drive with an interception at his own 33, KHS put together a nine-play drive that ended with another scoring strike to Pruett on a deep pattern. The score put Kaneland up 27-0 with :48 to go before halftime.

The third quarter set Streator’s fate in stone, with Pruett catching his third TD pass of the game on a second-and-six from the 11-yard line with 4:37 left in the quarter. David improvised on an errant snap and found Tyler Carlson for the two-point conversion making it 35-0.

After Streator punted, Kaneland used four runs to set up a 13-yard TD pass to Bishop with :24 to go in the third activating the running clock at 42-0.

“Streator was able to stop the run, and like we’ve said all year, we want to be balanced. When we have to throw and they’re making us throw, we’re going to throw. If they’re going to make us run, we’ve got to be able to run,” Fedderly said.

Photos by Patti Wilk

2013_VARSITY

Friday preview: Kaneland (4-0) vs. Rochelle (4-0)

Friday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. at Peterson Field

Kaneland begins its charge to qualify for the postseason with a tussle against the visiting Rochelle Hubs on Friday, Sept. 27.

Since being divisional-mates since the launching of the brief Western Sun Conference in 2006, Kaneland and Rochelle have met every regular season. That development ends in 2014 with the NIB-12 departure of Dixon and Streator to the Big Northern Conference and I-8, respectively.

The shuffling necessitated a divisional realignment in the NIB-12 football landscape in 2014, with Rochelle relocating to the West to balance out the schools.

Kaneland has defeated Rochelle in seven out of 10 meetings in the last decade of action. The Hubs last defeated Kaneland back in 2007, 35-24, in the opening match of their new athletic grounds. KHS has won six in a row, including 34-6 in Ogle County a year ago. The Knights also swept two victories in 2011 as part of regular season and IHSA Class 5A State quarterfinal play.

KHS comes into Friday’s contest averaging 40.5 points a game, and giving up a grand total of four touchdowns on the season.

Rochelle, with its noted ground attack, comes in with an identical 4-0 record and having scored 58 points in two of its four contests, including Friday’s 58-21 win over the Sterling Golden Warriors.

The Hubs are coached by Kevin Crandall, in his 19th season at the helm, and have qualified for the postseason 15 of the last 17 campaigns, most recently missing the chance in 2010. A year ago, Rochelle was upended in the first round after a 6-3 regular season by eventual Kaneland conqueror Lincoln-Way West.

Photo from RochelleHubsFootball.net

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Martinelli playing football at Central College

PELLA, IOWA—Zach Martinelli of Elburn, a wide receiver and recent Kaneland graduate, is a member of the Central College football team.

The Dutch are the third-winningest football team of any college or university in the U.S. since 1975 (.805 winning percentage) and have not had a losing season since 1960. Central has captured a record 30 Iowa Conference championships with 20 NCAA Division III playoff berths, including 17 in the past 26 years.

Coach Jeff McMartin entered his 10th season ranked 12th among active NCAA Division III coaches in career winning percentage, posting a 73-23 (.760) mark. Central returns 44 letterwinners and 19 starters (7 off., 8 def., 4 specialty) from last year’s 5-5 squad.

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Late-night run

Photo: Nate Dyer (32) had a big night for the Knights, rushing for three touchdowns. Photo by Patti Wilk

Sterling can’t counter Kaneland (3-0) balance
STERLING, Ill.—Kaneland showed a great crossover move on Friday night, but not on the basketball court.

Instead, the Knights football roster (3-0) successfully handled its Northern Illinois Big XII West division opponent on the turf of Sterling Chevrolet Field, the home of the Sterling Golden Warriors (2-1), in a 48-7 running clock defeat.

For the Knights, it marked the 31st consecutive victory in the regular season, and marked the third win in the last four meetings between the two schools.

Kaneland beat Sterling in the Class 5A State quarterfinals in Maple Park in 2006, a 52-45 double-overtime epic. Sterling returned the favor in Whiteside County two years later in a 23-21 first-round meeting. KHS bested the visiting Golden Warriors on Sept. 14, 2012, 42-0.

KHS gained 369 yards of total offense, compared to 80 for the hosts, with ball-carrier Nate Dyer running like a bull for the Knights with a game-high 97 yards.

“We always got guys coming in and that’s what we strive for is if a man goes down, we get that second man in,” Dyer said. “Every team that comes in, we have to expect them to be a tough team. We just had to practice hard and play hard.”

Dyer (three TDs) took the brunt of the carries, along with Isaac Swithers and Dylan Nauert, spelling Jesse Balluff, who went down in pain after being tackled to the sidelines after a first-quarter pass. The senior was on crutches with a wrap on his knee after the contest.

Senior quarterback Drew David passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score of his own.

David and Co. were adept at extending plays for more gains on Friday.

“The line always does a great job with blocking,” David said. “(Sterling) kind of threw different coverage than we were expecting, so it kind of confused us a little bit, but we always have guys that can make plays.”

To get to the ground punishments, Kaneland began the first drive with passes to Balluff, John Pruett, Nauer and Balluff again to gather 62 yards of offense. Five plays later, David snuck in from the one-yard line for a 7-0 lead with 7:41 to go in the first.

After a punt by Sterling, Kaneland took over and went six plays for 45 yards, ending in an 18-yard fade pattern to Connor Fedderly, his first varsity touchdown. The score made it 14-0 with 3:15 to go.

KHS would score on its third consecutive drive when David, Swithers and Dyer would make productive carries, and Dyer would scamper for a 10-yard touchdown just six seconds into the second frame for a 20-0 edge.

Sterling would strike back in short fashion, thanks to a 38-yard touchdown pass to Logan Wharff 21 seconds later to close within 20-7. Wharff set up the play with a 60-yard kickoff return.

Later, Kaneland would get pick from Swithers to set up the ball at the Sterling 28. On the third run of the drive, Dyer’s six-yard score would make it 27-7 with 5:04 left in the half.

The Knights would convert on the next drive toward the end of the frame, with six runs and one pass. Dyer’s four-yard run completed a 60-yard drive for a 34-7 lead with 43 seconds before the buzzer.

Two third-quarter scores put the game on ice, as Nauert took an inside handoff and went 19 yards for a touchdown with 8:37 to go to make it 41-7, and Nauert made an up-for-grabs catch from the three with 4:19 to go for the 48-7 margin, completing an eight-play drive.

Photos by Patti Wilk:

BULLDOG

Kaneland (3-0) vs. Streator (0-3)

Friday, Sept. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Kaneland High School’s Peterson Field

The Knights host the Streator Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 20, for the second of two NIB-12 crossover meetings in 2013. A year ago, Kaneland traveled to Streator and won 41-0 in a contest that triggered a running clock for the entire second half. Balluff, Nauert and Dyer all found the end zone in the win.

Streator comes into next Friday at 0-3 after a 29-13 loss at Ottawa. The Bulldogs have scored a total of 33 points this season, and are coached by Kirk Melody. Streator last amassed both a winning record and playoff qualification in 2008, and has lost 29 of its last 30 regular season encounters.

This stands to be the last regular season meeting between the two squads for the foreseeable future, as Streator leaves the NIB-12 after four years in June 2014. Streator, the conference’s southern-most school, leaves for the Interstate Eight Conference, while Dixon departs for the Big Northern Conference.

The shuffling necessitated a divisional realignment in the NIB-12 football landscape in 2014, with Rochelle relocating to the West to balance out the schools.

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Higher ground

Photo: The Knights Dylan Nauert carries the ball during the first quarter. Photo by Erik Anderson

Knights beat Elmhurst-based namesake in week 2 affair
KANELAND—Friday night’s first drive set the tone.

Facing an all-new non-conference opponent in Elmhurst’s IC Catholic Prep, Kaneland could have relied on the air game, but instead went to the rushing attack spurred on by workhorses Jesse Balluff, Dylan Nauert and Nate Dyer.

The first drive of the contest lasted nine plays and went 75 yards, ending with a 20-yard touchdown run around left end for Balluff with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter, setting the stage for an eventual 45-14 domination of the visitors.

“We just love running this year,” Balluff said. “We have a huge line that’s just dominant, and anybody can run behind them and get a touchdown, seriously.”

For Kaneland football, it’s the 30th consecutive regular season win in a row. The Knights haven’t lost a non-conference regular season matchup in four years, last dropping a 2009 matchup to Huntley.

It was a departure for the Knights crew, who last played someone other than Marmion Academy or Huntley in the season’s second game back in 2004, in a 34-0 win over Ridgewood High School.

Quarterback Drew David went 10-for-17 for 165 yards on the night, while Balluff went 185 yards on 16 carries.

On the next KHS drive, the Knights executed a 10-play drive with a concentration on ball-control. Matt Rodriguez booted a 38-yard field goal to give the hosts a 10-0 lead with 1:05 remaining in the quarter.

The ICC (1-1) drive that followed was stopped in its tracks after one play after a rush on the quarterback by Isaac Swithers resulted in a fumble recovery by Andrew Kray.

A touchdown pass to John Pruett was called back due to a penalty, but Balluff took charge with a 35-yard touchdown scamper on the next play for a 17-0 edge with 15 ticks left in the frame.

The opposing Knights finally got on the board with 8:13 left in the second on a six-yard touchdown run to close within 17-7.

Balluff had three carries on the next drive for Kaneland and scored his third touchdown of the game, with a 1-yarder up the middle for a 24-7 edge with 5:59 remaining in the half.

Kaneland’s defense took over on the next ICC drive, with Ryan Bower emerging with a sack. Four plays later, linebacker Cole Carlson picked off a pass and went 51-yards down the sideline for a touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 2:41 to go in the half.

The third quarter officially put the game on ice, despite a fourth-quarter score by ICC. Nauert ran the ball in from the 10 with 7:32 remaining in the third for a 38-7 lead, and a three-yard touchdown with 2:43 to go in the third for a 45-7 lead.

A running clock scenario was almost set into motion, but a punt return TD by Nauert was flagged for an illegal block at the tail-end of the third quarter.

KHS coach Tom Fedderly was pleased to see the early gameplan come to fruition.

“We thought we had the advantage up front,” Fedderly said. “We were going to keep running the ball until they stopped it.”

Sept. 13 sports recap

Freshman Football
At Aurora Christian—In a tight game, the freshman football Knights lost to the Aurora Christian Eagles 34-32. No stats were provided.

Sophomore Football
vs. IC Catholic Prep—The Knight sophomore football team shut out visiting IC Catholic Prep 40-0 Friday night. No stats were provided.

Sophomore Soccer
vs. Streamwood—Andy Tovar had the only Kaneland goal as the Knights deadlocked with Streamwood 1-1 Monday. The Sophomore team now sits at 0-0-1.

Freshman Volleyball
vs. Aurora Central Catholic—The freshmen volleyball teams defeated Aurora Central Catholic Thursday. The A squad won 26-24, 25-14, while the B group won 27-25, 25-14.
vs. Montini—Both freshman squads handled visiting Montini Monday. The A squad defeated the Broncos 25-13, 25-14, while the B squad won 25-16, 25-17. No stats were provided.

Sophomore Volleyball
vs. Aurora Central Catholic—Thursday saw the sophomore volleyball team lose 25-23, 21-25, 23-25 in a close match against ACC.
vs. Montini—The Lady Knights lost a close match to visiting Montini 25-23, 21-25, 14-25 on Monday. No stats were provided.
vs. LaSalle-Peru—Tuesday saw KHS fall 13-25, 28-26, 25-15 to visiting LaSalle-Peru.

Fr/So Golf
vs. Yorkville—Tuesday’s tilt against visiting Yorkville was fruitful for the Knights Fr/So golf team. Brett Glennon led all golfers with a 39, while Luke Calabrese shot a 45. Dan Franck and Jake Pearson each shot a 47 to finish the scoring. The Knights defeated the Foxes 178-192.

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Friday Preview: IC Catholic Prep vs. Kaneland

Kaneland now hosts IC Catholic Prep of Elmhurst, Ill., on Friday, Sept. 6, in Maple Park at 7:30 p.m.

IC Catholic beat Chicago’s Noble Street Charter by a 47-6 clip on Saturday. As part of the Suburban Christian Gold Conference, the Knights are headed by second-year coach Bill Krefft. The Class 2A State champs in 2008, the Knights have gone to the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, and gone 7-4 three of the last four campaigns.

“We’re going to take a look at what we’ve got,” Tom Fedderly said. “It’s our first game and now we got something on film.”

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Coming up big

Photo: Linebacker Cole Carlson contributed an interception during Saturday’s game against Brooks Prep of Chicago. Photo by Patti Wilk

Defense makes tide-changing plays in 27-7 win over Brooks
KANELAND—Kaneland football’s defense on Saturday night picked up the pieces.

It also picked up the team, as well as any loose balls and errant passes.

The Knights’ D managed two third-quarter safeties to add to the point total in a 27-7 opening weekend victory over the Brooks Prep Eagles from Chicago.

It marked the third straight win over the Eagles since the series began in 2011, and marked a stark contrast from the 25-24 comeback win at Gately Stadium on Aug. 25, 2012 that was possible only with a fourth-quarter surge.

The 1-0 Knights won their 29th consecutive regular season contest, dating back to week nine of the 2009 campaign against Yorkville. The trumping of Brooks was delayed 24 hours after torrential rain and plentiful lightning wiped high school football action out throughout the area on Friday.

It marked the first postponement of a Kaneland football game since the opening weekend of the 2007 season, when heavy storms on a Thursday prompted moving the Kaneland win over Burlington Central to a Saturday kickoff.

The offensive output by Kaneland was largely confined to the first half and a 23-7 lead, but five turnovers bruised additional scoring chances, making the defensive play from personnel like Sam Bower, Grant Wooten (interception) and Tyler Carlson all the more important.

Tyler Slamans (above) eludes three Brooks defenders during Kaneland’s 27-7 victory Saturday. Slamans had three receptions for 71 yards.  Photo by Patti Wilk
Tyler Slamans (above) eludes three Brooks defenders during Kaneland’s 27-7 victory Saturday. Slamans had three receptions for 71 yards. Photo by Patti Wilk

“It was nice, we knew we got embarrassed last year,” Carlson said. “We came out and did our job on the defensive end and it was a good game. Our defensive line just got pressure for the safeties, and it was really good work by them.”

For Kaneland, quarterback Drew David went 15-of-29 for 232 yards and three interceptions. Jesse Balluff went 84 yards on 18 carries, while David was close behind with 81 yards rushing. Tight end Tyler Slamans paced the receiving corps with 71 yards on three catches, while John Pruett and Brandon Bishop each had 44 yards receiving.

The night began with a Dylan Nauert kickoff return to the Brooks’ 24-yard line, where runs by Drew David and Jesse Balluff got the drive going. After two incomplete passes, kicker Matt Rodriguez booted a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead one minute, 42 seconds into battle.

After a Brooks punt was downed at the Eagles’ 12, Balluff broke one tackle on the next play and scampered into the end zone for a 9-0 lead with 8:54 to go in the first.

Another Brooks punt led to a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive for Kaneland, ending with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle for Balluff with 5:05 to go in the first for a 16-0 lead. The drive was keyed by a 34-yard completion to Slamans.

The lone scoring drive for Kaneland in the second quarter was made of the ball-control variety, with the seventh and last run of the drive a one-yard run by fullback Nate Dyer with 3:33 to go for a 23-0 lead.

Brooks found the scoreboard on a 21-yard scoring pass from Tyree Dantzler to Dakota Starks with 36 seconds remaining in the half, closing the deficit to 23-7.

The Kaneland offense saw drives fizzle out with a missed field goal, three interceptions and a lost fumble. The second-half scoring came as a result of two third-quarter safeties, causing the ever-rare four-point third quarter.

“We’re really happy with our defensive line,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “Sophomores had a big game, Bower had a huge game and Ty Carlson, in his first game as linebacker, I thought he did a terrific job.”

With 10:40 to go in the third quarter, a team sack of Dantzler in the end zone made it 25-7, while the next drive ended with a punt block by Bower out of the end zone for a 27-7 lead with 7:24 to go in the third and capping the scoring.

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2013 Football Preview: The road black

Photo: Senior quarterback Drew David, here taking the field at last Thursday’s Knights Under the Lights scrimmage, will lead the Knights in 2013. The Knights are looking to move past an early second-round playoff exit in 2012. Photo by Patti Wilk

Talented upperclassmen look to remedy second-round exit of 2012 season
Kaneland—Get ready Kaneland football fans, and prepare to retreat Kaneland football opponents.

Nothing may be more dangerous to opponents than a team that has won 28 regular season games in a row and a class that has won 34 of 47, and wants to remedy a second-round Class 5A elimination at the hands of Lincoln-Way West.

“The kids still feel embarrassed how it ended last year,” seventh-year coach Tom Fedderly said. “We’ve looked at the film of our scrimmage and we want to take a big step improving. We’ll look for faster improvement for this week.”

“We’ve looked at the film of our scrimmage and we want to take a big step improving.  We’ll look for faster  improvement for  this week.” KHS football coach  Tom Fedderly
“We’ve looked at the film of our scrimmage and we want to take a big step improving.
We’ll look for faster
improvement for
this week.”
KHS football coach
Tom Fedderly

Leading the way at quarterback is Drew David, a senior who’s guided the team to the postseason two straight years. David suffered a hand injury in a victory over Yorkville in last year’s regular season, even missing the win over Sycamore. A pin was put in his hand, and Fedderly has a healthy quarterback again.

“We at Kaneland have been lucky as anyone for the quarterbacks we’ve had, no doubt,” Fedderly said.

Fellow senior Jesse Balluff once again sees time at the running back position.

“It’s nice to have him and have that balance in a spread offense. You have to prepare for him, and he’s a running threat,” Fedderly said.

Also in the backfield is bruiser and goal-line option Nate Dyer, who may also see some time on the other side of the ball at nose tackle.

The all-important wideouts in the Kaneland offensive package see some departures, but also see returnees like Dylan Nauert and Brandon Bishop.

Adding to the offense at wideout are John Pruett and Connor Fedderly. Tyler Slamans returns after an ACL injury to serve at tight end.

The offensive line features Alex Snyder, who has amassed the most varsity wins for any player in Kaneland football history, having joined the ranks as a freshman.

He’s joined by Joe Komel, in pursuit by college football programs, Shane Jorgensen, and Justin Diddell, with Tom Van Bogaert projected at center.

“We have a lot of big guys there, and average about 260 pounds,” Fedderly said.

On the ball-snatching side of the field, the linebacking corps features Gary Koehring, who had no shortage of key plays and stops in 2012. Sam Bower, Slamans and Dan Hammermeister. The Knights’ crew also has Tyler Carlson and Cole Carlson for linebacking duties, as well.

Kaneland also gets a boost from secondary play. JR Vest returns, and will be joined by Knights like Grant Wooten and Isaac Swithers.

“Isaac is a tough kid; the secondary has to know what the offense is trying to do,” Fedderly said.

Matt Rodriguez returns as the kicking specialist.

“It’s so important to have a kicker who can put it 80 yards downfield for field position,” Fedderly said.

Kaneland’s reputation precedes itself in NIB-12 history, as the only conference champ the group has ever known, but the East division houses threatening teams beginning with Class 5A runner-up Morris.

“Morris is always good, and that’s a really big game down there; Sycamore has a good senior class, and that’ll be interesting to watch against Lincoln-Way West in week one, Rochelle is always tough, we know DeKalb’s coach from having faced Belvidere in the playoffs the last two years, and Yorkville has eight sophomores that saw time last year,” Fedderly said.

KHS hosts Brooks Prep of Chicago on Friday, Aug. 30, and tries to add to the two-game win streak against the Eagles. KHS needed a fourth-quarter comeback for a one-point win in 2012.

Knights football drills home summer with 7-on-7’s

KANELAND—There’s no rest for KHS football, even in the summer.

With official practices now underway, the Knights got busy in the time off from school by participating with rival area schools in 7-on-7 gatherings that ended July 27.

Stripped down from the usual football get-up, but still wearing helmets and some pads, the Knights took the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of Kaneland football for the upcoming 2013 campaign, making the most of the 25 contact practices allowed during the summer months.

Kaneland, looking to make it a four-peat in the Northern Illinois Big XII conference East division, saw action at Northern Illinois University—where they went 5-1 on a weekend—against Aurora Christian, Metea Valley, Willowbrook and Geneva high schools throughout the summer.

The drill setup, more geared toward offense, provided a change of pace from having to see the same Knight faces.

“I think it’s really fun,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “The kids enjoy it, and it’s an opportunity for them to compete and it’s to see who’s not afraid to make plays. We don’t care if they won or lost, we just want them to play hard.”

Not much tinkering goes into the equation that has led to three consecutive undefeated regular seasons and two State semifinal appearances in the past three campaigns.

“The kids are just getting to learn our system and passing game, so we won’t put a whole lot in there. We want them to learn the basics. With experimentation, we might put kids at different positions to see how they look,” Fedderly said.

As much as a refreshing change of pace it might be for some of the everyday athletes and heavy contributors, it’s also important for those on other tiers of the team, as well.

“We play everyone in the summer, so it’s a really good opportunity for some of the kids that we haven’t seen as much to get some reps and see how they do,” Fedderly said.

An important step of the summer, the 7-on-7 gatherings have more awareness to them throughout the area, according to Fedderly.

“People want to put more tournaments together, and colleges do it because they can take a look at kids, especially at places like Northern and Northwestern,” Fedderly said.

Kaneland’s regular season kickoff takes place on Friday, Aug. 30, against Chicago’s Brooks Prep.

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Cohesive to their core

Key Kaneland players continue as teammates on college gridiron
ELBURN—Kaneland High School football players swapping their black-and-white jerseys after graduation for the blue and orange of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has become a common occurrence over the past few years.

Two prominent members of last season’s Knights’ squad that mowed through the schedule undefeated before bowing to Lincoln-Way West in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs last fall are the latest Kaneland products to join head coach Mike Emendorfer’s club.

Zach Theis, a two-year starting left tackle who was named to the Illinois Football Coaches Association’s Class 5A all-state football team as a senior, and linebacker/safety Blake Bradford, are preparing to take their grid careers to the next level at the NCAA Division III school this fall.
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“I’m very excited,” Bradford said. “Football is something I enjoy greatly, and to be able to keep on playing after high school is something that I thought I’d never accomplish.”

“He’s a hard-nosed, tough young man,” Emendorfer said. “I’m looking forward to him coming into the program. Blake’s goal is to play a role on special teams and learn the system as quickly as possible his freshman year. Blake is going to be a safety or outside linebacker; he’s one of those ‘tweeners. When we get him into camp we’re going to figure that out.”

Emendorfer also is looking forward to adding Theis, the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East Offensive Player of the Year, to the mix on the O-line.

Zach Theis (No. 57). File photo
Zach Theis (No. 57). File photo

“You don’t find too many players in high school being recognized as Player of the Year as an offensive lineman,” Emendorfer said. “We think he has a chance to compete for playing time, but we’re very careful about making any promises. He has talent; it’s just a matter of making that transition to college.”

Theis’ mindset going into the season is to contribute in any way possible.

“I’m going to go in and try my hardest and do everything they want me to do,” Theis said. “If it ends up being a starting spot, that’s the way it’s going to be, but if it’s not that, I’ll fill my role on the team and be a team player.”

The former Kaneland stars also will be roommates at their new school. They’ll be living in a dorm on campus.
“We’ve got everything,” Theis said. “We’re just trying to find a couch.”

No doubt, Kaneland products Quinn Buschbacher and Ryley Bailey, both wideouts on the squad, will help Theis and Bradford adjust to life at UW-Platteville both on and off the field. Bradford and Theis played alongside Buschbacher in 2011, while Bradford and Bailey have known each other since they were kids.

“It’s definitely nice to go in there and play with someone you’ve already played with before,” Bradford said. “Not a lot of people get to do that, and I think it’s going to be fun.”

Buschbacher, a sophomore for the Pioneers, recalls how Bailey, now a senior, took him under his wing when he became part of the team last year. He plans on mentoring Theis and Bradford once they arrive in Platteville.

Former KHS standout Quinn Buschbacher. Courtesy Photo
Former KHS standout Quinn Buschbacher. Courtesy Photo

Former KHS standout Ryley Bailey. Courtesy Photo
Former KHS standout Ryley Bailey. Courtesy Photo

“With Ryley, it was super nice coming into college,” Buschbacher said. “He acted like my older brother. I’ll be like Blake and Zach’s brother like Ryley did with me.”

There will be plenty for the new freshmen to adapt to, Buschbacher noted, such as a noticeable uptick in the speed of the game, managing their classes and their schedules.

“They’ve still got to learn the playbook, and the coaches have to get a feel for how they adapt to the level of speed, playing at a high level and being consistent,” Buschbacher said.

But Buschbacher believes Theis and Bradford will make a smooth transition to college ball. Coaches at UW-Platteville and Kaneland have developed a strong relationship over the years, and the two schools run the same type of offense and utilize similar terminology.

“They’re Kaneland boys,” Buschbacher said. “Ryley and I were able to adapt very well. Kaneland has a very good tradition and consistently plays at a very high level. It allows us to come in, work hard and have that determination to push through and reach whatever level we want to.”

They’ve adapted well, indeed. Bailey led the Pioneers in receptions (70), receiving yards (849) and touchdowns (10) last season. He was named a first-team all-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) player and also was selected national Division III Receiver of the Week after catching 11 passes for 191 yards and two scores during a 49-19 win over UW-Eau Claire.

Emendorfer said Bailey has the potential to be an all-American candidate this season.

“I’ve been in college coaching at Platteville 15 years, and Ryley is one of most intelligent football players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “What Ryley brings to the table is football savvy. He’s our Swiss knife. He can do everything; he can block, catch the vertical game, catch the short game and is a very versatile athlete. He’s one of our best blocking receivers. When we need a big play, Ryley’s the guy we go to.”

Buschbacher, meanwhile, caught 26 passes for 216 yards and two TDs last year. Emendorfer indicated he has big plans for the team’s 2012 freshman Player of the Year this season.

“Quinn is very explosive,” Emendorfer said. “He can take a 5-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard touchdown easily. As the year went on, he got more and more playing time. Offensively, we averaged over 40 points per game (last year). The reason is because of people like Quinn and Ryley. We’re hoping for big things next year.”

The Pioneers, coming off an 8-2 record—their first 8-2 season since 1976—are garnering national attention. They’re ranked 14th in Lindy’s Sports Magazine’s Division III pre-season top 25.

Buschbacher said he feels confident the Pioneers can live up to their preseason billing, if not exceed expectations. Making the Division III playoffs, and advancing in the postseason, are among the Pioneers’ goals for 2013.

“I’m really excited,” Buschbacher said. “We have a good group of guys that are motivated to be successful. The Stagg Bowl (the Division III national championship game) is out there for us to take, but it’s up to us to reach that goal. We know it’s out there. We have to do whatever we can to capture it.”

re-’Fleck’-tions from a head coach

KHS alum P.J. Fleck prepares for 1st season as head coach in major college football
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—When asked about former Knight wideout P.J. Fleck, former assistant and current Kaneland High School head football coach Tom Fedderly said, “No one is going to outwork P.J.”

“I don’t know about anyone else, I just try to outwork myself,” Fleck said on Monday.

That could be what led to the Sugar Grove native’s rise through the ranks among NFL and college football staffs. His rise culminated in becoming the youngest head coach in major college football on Dec. 18, when he took over the top spot at Western Michigan University at the age of 32.

He replaced eight-year head coach Bill Cubit, who had been fired after a 51-46 stint leading the Broncos.

After starring for Kaneland High School and Northern Illinois University, and then making the NFL as a member of the 2004 San Francisco 49ers, Fleck entered the coaching ladder as a graduate assistant with Coach Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes.

Fleck then went on to be wide receivers coach at NIU and Rutgers before following former Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2012 season.

Fleck has plenty of mentors who have made an impact on him as he prepares for his first season in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“Anytime you’re a coach at any level, you’re built by who you were with,” Fleck said. “I’m all of those guys.”

Fleck’s aspirations always included being a head coach at some level. A chance to lead a program with plenty of Midwestern talent and belonging to a conference with ample television coverage gives him a stage to show what he can accomplish.

“People looked at Nick Saban when he first started coaching and said he had never been a coach before,” Fleck said. “Now it’s wondering if he can win another national championship. You can’t be a head coach until you get the job.”

Assembling the Broncos’ football staff provided a boost to the first-year coach.

“I was excited to assemble my kind of coaching staff. In my short career, I’ve been around a lot of coaching staffs, and now it’s my chance. Every year, you kind of re-invent yourself until you become a head coach,’ Fleck said.

Fleck tries to lead the program back to a winning season, last seen in 2011 when the Broncos went to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and finished third in the MAC West Division.

The Kaneland grad is also getting the head coach/father dynamic down, as the birth of his second child, daughter Paisley, came just 24 hours before he officially took the Broncos’ helm.

“I love it, and somehow I have more energy,” Fleck said. “You have to be able to manage your time, and this has made me a better husband and father.”

The 15th head coach in Western Michigan history has plenty of fans in his corner locally, as Fedderly saw early on what Fleck was capable of accomplishing.

“Just watching him mature and become the man that he is just makes me really proud. He’s just a really good friend and good friend of our family. To see him work his way up as he did and become a head coach at 32 is unbelievable,” Fedderly said.

With mere months remaining before the start of his first season, Fleck reflected on the the biggest change he has experienced thus far in his new role.

“You are the final decision maker. I’ve always wanted to be that. You listen to the coaching staff and hear what they have to say and at the end of the day, you make the best choice,” Fleck said. “Greg (Schiano) was the best I’ve ever seen at making decisions.”

Having to start somewhere, Fleck has reached a pinnacle at his first head coaching stop.

“People have always doubted me at every stop,” Fleck said. “It’s happened my whole life, and I love it.”

Fleck and his WMU team kick things off in East Lansing, Mich., against the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday, Aug. 31.

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NFHS announces rules changes

Indianapolis—That National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) recently announced some changes for soccer and football; all of which will take effect starting with the 2013-14 season.

Soccer Clarification on coach-player communications
The NFHS announced new rules clarifying when and how coaches can communicate with their players.

Effective with the 2013-14 season, coaches and players can communicate during a stoppage of play for an injury. Rule 3-3-1c(1) still requires a coach or appropriate health-care professional to have the approval of the referee before entering the field; however, teams may now huddle and receive coaching instruction during the stoppage, which previously was prohibited.

Another change in regard to communication involves electronic devices. While using electronic communication devices to communicate with on-field players is still prohibited, the use of electronic devices on the sideline is allowed.

“If a coach is on the bench and wants to use a tablet-type device to video and then at halftime show the players the rights and wrongs, they are able to do that,” said Mark Koski, NFHS director of sports and events and liaison to the Soccer Rules Committee.

Koski said the previous rule banned all communication devices, including cell phones, from the sideline. If such devices were found, a caution could have been issued.

Another of the seven rules changes involves the intentional fouling of a player who has an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The new rule states that if a player commits a foul while attempting to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the goal is scored, that player will be issued a yellow card. If the foul is considered serious foul play, however, the player will still be issued a red card.

If a goal is not scored, the player who committed the foul will be issued a red card.

“The committee doesn’t want to penalize a team twice for the same play by having the goal scored against them, then to lose a player,” Koski said. “On the other hand, when a red card is issued when the shot is missed, the team is still suffering just a single blow.”

Revisions to two rules now require players to check in with the scorer/timer—or the referee if there is not a scorer/timer in place—prior to entering the game when a goal is scored or when a player is injured and removed from the field. After checking in, the player must wait until he or she is beckoned onto the field by the referee.

“This rule helps with game organization and allows officials to know who the players of record are,” Koski said.

At the start of the half, the players can enter the field of play without being beckoned by an official.

Another rules change for 2013-14 involves uniforms, specifically the use of tape on socks. Rule 4-1-1c requires both socks to be the same color and consist of a single dominant color. The change results in the use of tape that is applied outside of the sock, which now must be a similar color to the area of the sock to which it is applied.

The Soccer Rules Committee also approved a change to the definition of the “Free Kick.” The committee agreed that just tapping the top of the ball was not “putting it in play.” For the ball to be considered “in play,” it must be kicked and move.

Soccer is the fifth-most popular sport for boys and fourth among girls at the high school level. According to the 2011-12 High School Athletics Participation Survey, 411,757 boys are involved in soccer and 370,975 girls participate in the sport.

Football New rules regarding helmets that come off players
In an effort to continue minimizing the risk of injury in high school football, three additional rules will take effect next season to address helmets coming off players’ heads during games.

These three risk-minimization additions were among 10 rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 18-20 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

As a follow-up to last year’s rules change that requires players to sit out one play if their helmet comes off while the ball is live, the committee approved three additional rules that are extensions of last year’s change.

An illegal personal contact foul was added to Rule 9-4-3 to state that “no player or nonplayer shall initiate contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off.”

In addition, a new listing in Rule 9-6-4 will state that it is illegal participation “for a player whose helmet comes completely off during a down to continue to participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged.”

“With its continued focus on risk minimization, the committee determined that a helmet-less player shall not block, tackle or otherwise participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged when the helmet came completely off,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine. “The penalty would be a live-ball, basic-spot foul.”

The committee also added language to Rule 3-5-10 to clarify that if the helmet comes completely off during the down or subsequent dead-ball action related to the down—and is not directly attributable to a foul by the opponent—the player must leave the game for at least one down, with the exception of halftime or overtime intermission. When this occurs, an official’s time-out shall be called.

“Player safety has been and will continue to be the top priority for members of the NFHS Football Rules Committee,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association. “These rules changes regarding helmet-less players are more examples of the group’s commitment to minimize risk within the game.”

Perhaps the most significant rules change next season will be one that reduces the penalty for pass interference. While the 15-yard penalty will remain for both offensive and defensive pass interference, the loss of down has been removed for offensive pass interference and the automatic first down has been eliminated for defensive pass interference.

“Offensive and defensive pass interference and the penalty structure related to these fouls has been debated many times in recent years,” Garrett said. “Proposals that either deleted the loss of down or the automatic first down—but not both—failed to gain support among committee members. The proposal to eliminate both components, thus not upsetting the balance between offense and defense, was the key factor in the adoption of the new rule.”

Another change at high school football games next year will be the expanded use of communication devices. In specific situations, coaches, players and nonplayers will be allowed to use any form of communication technology.

This expansion of the rule allows the use of communication devices during authorized conferences outside the nine-yard marks, on the sidelines and during the halftime intermission. Use of communication devices by players except conferences outside the nine-yard mark continues to be prohibited.

In Rule 2-4-1, the committee clarified the rule approved last year regarding the definition of a catch, which stated that a receiver is required to establish possession of the ball and contact the ground inbounds while maintaining possession—regardless of the opponent’s action.

“The committee clarified the definition of a catch such that an airborne player who has forward progress stopped inbounds and is carried out of bounds by an opponent before contacting the ground is awarded a catch at the spot of forward progress,” Colgate said.

In Rule 9-3-8, the committee added another provision to the rule enacted last year regarding contact by the kicking team against members of the receiving team. The new provision stipulates that the kicking team may initiate contact once the receiving team has initiated a block within the neutral zone.

The committee also approved the addition of a 15-yard penalty to the existing option of accepting an awarded fair catch for kick-catch interference.

Finally, in Rule 8-3-3, the committee clarified that the touchdown scoring team is the only team that can score on a try, and in Rule 1-5-3 the committee modified the rule regarding the wearing of towels.

Football is the No. 1 participatory sport for boys at the high school level with 1,121,744 participants in the 2011-12 school year, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS through its member state associations. In addition, the survey indicated there were 1,805 girls who played football in 2011-12.

Publisher teams up with Beebe to tell story

by Mike Slodki
AURORA—Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe has made a career and life out of transitions.

A 1983 graduate of Kaneland High School, he suited up for the Knights and went to school at Western Illinois and Chadron State College in Nebraska.

After working construction and putting up aluminum siding in nearby towns like Montgomery, he moved on for a shot at the NFL Combine and was subsequently drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

After several years and an infamous Super Bowl swat later, Beebe went to the Green Bay Packers, where he earned a championship ring in 1997.

Beebe then moved on to the next phase of his life, operating Don Beebe’s House of Speed, and most recently, head coach of the two-time Class 3A football champion Aurora Christian Eagles.

That’s where Jim Gibson comes in.

Gibson, owner and operator of Big Talk Publishing in Aurora, met with Beebe to put a book together. The result, “Six Rings from Nowhere,” was released at Aurora Christian High School last week.

It wasn’t hard for Gibson, a veteran of the television and movie industry, to get involved and tout the story.

“What’s great is that Don isn’t a blue-chipper, he’s blue collar,” Gibson said. “He’s the guy reading that book.”

Hoopla surrounding the book should continue with the NFL playoffs on the horizon. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the Bills’ historic Wild Card round comeback against the Houston Oilers, as well as the Super Bowl swat to rob Leon Lett of a defensive touchdown.

Gibson said CBS Sports is set to be in the area to interview Beebe and Lett about the play.

“(Beebe’s) so humble about all this. He’s a guy that showed up at the same combine with a pair of old tennis shoes and a duffle bag sharing space with Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman and Barry Sanders,” Gibson said.

The book is available for purchase at houseofspeed.com, sixringsfromnowhere .com, donbeebe.com, or at Aurora Christian High School.

“This book was a no-brainer, and comes after a long process,” Gibson said. “I knew of Don before this, and as I got to know him on a much deeper level, I felt he really needed to explain his story.”

“Six Rings from Nowhere,” co-written with writer Denise Crosby, has an introduction by Beebe’s Bills teammate Jim Kelly, and a forward by his Packers teammate Brett Favre.

Included in the book are tales of Favre giving a game ball to Beebe after their Super Bowl XXXI win over the New England Patriots, and his first catch in the NFL, a touchdown pass against Houston cornerback Cris Dishman.

“(Beebe’s) a guy that was out of college football for three-and-a-half years, and decided ‘I have to get back to football,’ and that’s the beginning,” Gibson said.

Big Talk Publishing’s effort is a story of faith, hope and triumph, plus plenty of anecdotes for the most ardent football fan.

The story of the Kaneland Knight-turned construction worker-turned-wide reciever-turned-championship coach and father of four has something for everyone.

“Working with him and talking about how he got his first ring and the winner of ESPN’s first Play of the Year was great,” Gibson said. “But it’s about a guy who has the heart of a champion.”

Gigantic week for P.J. Fleck

Kaneland alum has daughter day before officially becoming WMU head coach
Kalamazoo, Mich.—Kaneland School District Hall of Fame member and Sugar Grove native P.J. Fleck had a whirlwind start to his week.

Preliminary, unconfirmed reporting from various sports media outlets began Monday, stating that Fleck would be officially named the head football coach at Western Michigan University (WMU).

The WMU Athletics Department confirmed the reports during the day Monday, stating that a press conference to officially name Fleck as their football program’s head coach had been set for Tuesday afternoon.

“When talking with people about Coach Fleck, the words used to describe his approach were ‘limitless energy,’ ‘limitless possibility,’ ‘limitless passion,’ ‘limitless enthusiasm,’ ‘limitless drive,’ ‘limitless achievement’ and ‘limitless opportunity,’” posted Mat Kanan, director of athletic media, when announcing the press conference online.

That press conference was put in jeopardy when Fleck’s wife, Tracie, went into labor Monday evening. The couple later welcomed their second child, Paisley, who will now look up to big brother, Carter Joseph (C.J.).

Fleck then made the trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., in time for the press conference.

“It’s great to be back in the MAC,” Fleck said as he reached the podium after being officially announced as the Broncos’ head coach. “I feel like I’ve come home.”

He presented the packed Varsity W Club Room in the Seeyle Center on the WMU campus with his plan as the university’s 15th head coach.

“We will do everything we can to bring success on the field and in the classroom,” he said.

Fleck described his approach to building a collegiate football program, as well as giving some insight into himself as a person.

“I’m an ordinary guy and I’ve surrounded myself with extraordinary people,” he said.

Fleck was a standout wide receiver on the back-to-back undefeated KHS state championship teams in 1998 and 1999. He set state records during his time as a Knight, with 95 catches for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season. In his KHS career, Fleck caught 199 passes for 3,121 yards and 34 touchdowns, including a string of 40 straight games in which he caught at least one pass.

He then went on to play wide receiver for Northern Illinois University, where he earned first-team All Mid-American Conference honors in 2003. As a senior, he led NIU with 77 catches for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns.

Fleck began his coaching career after two seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. After signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 2004, he spent most of that season on the practice squad before making an appearance versus New England late in the year. He was placed on the injured reserve roster in 2005 before retiring from professional football in June 2006.

Fleck began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant at Ohio State University in 2006, working with the Buckeyes’ tight ends and assisting with the special teams units.

Northern Illinois University hired Fleck in 2007 as a wide receivers coach, and he also served as the team’s recruiting coordinator. He then took wide receivers coaching position for Rutgers University in 2010. In early 2012, Fleck was hired as NIU offensive coordinator, but resigned the following day, instead taking a wide receivers coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccanears in the National Football League.

Now, with his head coaching position at WMU, Fleck is the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Fleck and his wife annually host the P.J. Fleck “Live Your Dream” Football Camp that benefits the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation (Friends of Carra), Alapecia Foundation (Locks of Love), Coach Kill’s Cancer Fund and the P.J. Fleck Scholarship Fund.