Kaneland football history

When Kaneland won the Suburban Prairie Conference Blue Division Championship in 1996, almost everyone thought it was the first Conference Title ever for the Knights. However, not everyone agreed.

So off to the archives, and sure enough in the late 50's and early 60's the young high school that sprang out of ground from nowhere, surprisingly became an immediate football success, coming within an eyelash of a title twice and in 1962 winning the Little Seven Conference Title outright.

Kaneland football started in 1958 when Kaneland High School was formed. Prior to that, football in the area consisted of 6 man football played on an 80 yard field, in Elburn. The field they used was were the E&CCC baseball diamonds are now. Kids from Sugar Grove and Kaneville were part of the Elburn School system at the time and played on the teams.

In 1957, knowing Kaneland would be joining a 11 man football conference in '58 Elburn prepared for the upgrade by playing 11 man football at Lion's Park.

Kaneland's first season was a success, losing the Little Eight conference title to the Genoa-Kingston Cogs by only one game. The Little Eight was really the little 4 then, and season consisted of playing each conference team twice. The first time the Knights played the Cogs it was a 7-7 tie, but the decision maker came the second time around when the Cogs won 31-13.

The final standings for Kaneland's first year were:

Genoa-Kingston 5 0 1
Kaneland 4 1 1
Central 2 4 0
Hiawatha 0 6 0

The next year Kaneland finished 6-2 and lost the conference title to Huntley. Then in

1960 Kaneland within an whisker of the title as they tied Huntley and Central, all with 6 and 2 records. However, Huntley had beaten Kaneland to grab the top spot.

Coach Ron Johnson then turned the reins over to Charles Ball, finishing his Kaneland football career with a respectable 17-4-1 record over three years. Ball's 1961 team finished 3-5, however, the next season was the best in school history, until this season.

1962 was Kaneland's fifth and last season in the Little Eight Conference. But, they made the most of it, by winning all their conference games after a opening loss to Earlville, for Kanland's first Conference Crown.

The Championship team consisted of lineman, Ronnie Steffes, Lennie Jump, Dan Gilmore, Keith Phelps, Ted McCannon, Jeff Kukuk, John Ferris, Elmer Gramley, Jerry Gehringer, and Gary Still.

The backs and ends were, Gary Nickels, (now a scout for the Baltimore Orioles), Tom Lawson, Dennis Harter, Bill Blaisdell, Gary Nelson, Paul Turk, Charles Ashley, and Bill Sullivan.

In the last game of the season Kaneland lost a non-conference game to Cary Grove 33-27, with Dennis Harter scoring all the kaneland points, setting a school scoring record of 147 points, that still stands.

In 1963 Kaneland entered the Little Seven Conference consisting of Geneva, , St. Charles, West Chicago, Mooseheart, Sycamore, and Oswego. For the following 31 years Kaneland battled in the Little Seven, never winning a title and never going to the playoffs.

The Knights where always competitive, usually around the .500 mark and in 1982 Graduated Kaneland's most popular football player, and four time Super Bowl performer, Don Beebe.

Following Ball with the coaching reins were Bill Blankenhorn, Harold Anderson, Vale McPeak, and in 1981, Joe Thoregeson.

In 1995 Kaneland entered a new era in football history, as the Little Seven dispersed, and the Knights joined the newly formed Suburban Prairie Conference. In their first year in the conference the Knights finished with the school's best record 8-1. Their only loss was to Morris which went undefeated to take the title. But, the Knights earned a state playoffs berth for the first time in school history, and advanced to second round, with a 21-0 first round win over Driscoll.

Then in the 1996 season the Knights finished 7-2, and were Conference Champs for the second time in school history and playoff bound for the second time in school history. Which means, in the 39 years of Kaneland football, this was the first time in the school's history that the Mighty Knights are both Conference Kings and State Playoff participants.

However, just like the previous season the Knights smashed their first round oppenont, only go to down to defeat in the second round of the playoffs.

Reprinted with permission of the Elburn Herald

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