Photo: Leading up to the first ever Northern Illinois Big XII campaign, the Knights partake in drills in Maple Park. Photo by Mike Slodki
by Mike Slodki
KANELANDâ€”With a core of three-year starters and the beginning of a new conference, Kaneland High School football looks to be poised for big things in 2010.
It begins with a select group of players that put the â€œskillâ€ in skill positions.
â€œWeâ€™re excited about having so many guys back with experience,â€ fourth-year head coach Tom Fedderly said on Monday. â€œThey paid their dues and we want to see what they can do this year.â€
Joe Camaliere returns at quarterback, now in his third-year of playing within the spread offense with a flourish.
The senior comes into the Friday, Aug. 27, opener at Burlington Central having tossed just three interceptions in 2009.
â€œThat all comes down to preparation,â€ Fedderly said. â€œMaking decisions in the game, and Joe takes a lot of pride in taking care of the ball.â€
Camaliere will have a void this year, with two-way player Ryley Bailey off to Wisconsin-Platteville.
â€œObviously, Ryley was a huge part of what we did last year. But we have guys working hard this year. We look at all of our skills kids back,â€ Fedderly said.
Running back Blake Serpa, soon to be a Mid-American Conference weapon at Central Michigan University, returns and figures to shoulder a load of the carries.
At the wideout positions are seniors Taylor Andrews and Tyler Callaghan, providing production, height and talent.
â€œCallyâ€™s about six-foot-five, Taylorâ€™s about six-foot-three and so is Serpa. Itâ€™s nice to see those guys out there. They can block, too. They can do it all,â€ Fedderly said.
The Knights like their height advantage, and plan to use it to their, well, advantage.
â€œIt really helps,â€ Fedderly said. â€œIt helps when you have a big target to throw to in a space. It helps Joe a lot.â€
Junior Quinn Buschbacher also found productive playing time last year, as well as the end zone, and will be counted on in 2010.
â€œCurtis Secrest is another kid thatâ€™s been working hard. We have a number of guys that can catch the ball,â€ Fedderly said.
Serpa and Secrest figure to be carrying the ball, but Fedderly and staff are looking at more options on that end.
Fedderly also mentioned the offensive and defensive lines could have a younger slant and will be open to competition.
Callaghan and Andrews will get time in at linebacker, and Secrest will get a look at secondary.
Serpa will handle punting, while Chad Swieca will handle extra points.
The Knightsâ€™ roster looks to make a big splash in the new Northern Illinois Big XII conference, and will add East Division-mate Morris, and West Division cousins Dixon and LaSalle-Peru to its slate.
â€œWhat weâ€™re really excited about is that all these are all similar programs,â€ Fedderly said. â€œSo our younger kids are going to be playing against similar situations with programs that play sophomores, whereas other schools we played had upperclassmen. I think itâ€™s going to really even out.â€
The last time Kaneland invaded a new conference, in 2006, the Knights won the Western Sun Conference title in a one-loss regular season.
Now, coming back onto the field after a three-loss regular season and an 40-13 opening round playoff loss to Sycamore, the Knights look to improve their end result.
â€œIf we want to be a good team, we need to watch turnovers and cut down on the mental errors. When we won, it was when we took care of the ball,â€ Fedderly said.
After the opener, the first East Division matchup is at Rochelle on Friday, Sept. 24. The regular season ends on Friday, Oct. 22 against visiting Morris.