You knew it was a special night before you even got to the school, as Keslinger road was lined with numerous signs containing words of inspiration for the local team. And once you reached the school and saw all the decorations, it was easy to tell it was Kaneland's Homecoming.
Well before game time, one could feel the carnival atmosphere, as TV and Radio crews ran wires near the press box, shinny streamers waved in the wind from nearby tree tops, floats full of color stood by ready for their moment of glory, and the smell of grilled pork chops filled the air.
This was more than just a game, it was an event. It had the importance of a division championship with playoff possibilities. This could be the last time 15 Seniors where to play on their home turf. The same turf they have spent so much time on over the last 5 years. Even Don Beebe took time out from his exciting season with the Green Bay Packers to come home for this game. This was it -- all the marbles were there for the taking.
By the time the sophomores had beaten the Evergreen Park 6-0 in the early game, the stands on the home side of the field were teeming with people, sending many to the enemy side to find a few inches of pine to watch from. Peterson Field stood proud and ready for it's special night.
By the time the Kickoff came it was almost anticlimatic. But as always the Knights defense was ready and as soon as the Evergreen Park Mustangs got their hands on the ball, they quickly learned what Kaneland "D" is all about.
On their first play from scrimmage Mustang super star running back Dominic Stazzone, saw more stars than super, when he ran head on into Andy Swanson and Ryan West for a 2 yard loss. Welcome to Kaneland "D", Mr. Stazzone.
Then after a short gain, Swanson, Steve Goldman and Chad Herst buried QB Colin O'Donnell for another 3 yard lose, netting a -1 yard for the Mustangs first attempt at downs which set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The first half was a defensive war that ended in a scoreless tie. However, it would not of been scoreless if it wasn't for the play of Paul Aspengren, who made the play of the half, midway throw the second quarter.
That's when Stazzone, starting from his own 8, broke through the Kaneland defense and had a clean shot to the end zone. But, out of no where came a black 82 moving like a speeding bullet, to catch him from behind at the Kaneland 42 to save the touchdown. A few plays later, Aspengren intercepted a O'Donnell pass just 15 yards from the end zone and returned it all the way back to mid-field. He took a mean face mask penalty to add 15 more yards for his effort.
Kaneland's offense had, what has become normal operating procedure, 4 fumbles and 4 turnovers to help Evergreen Park.
The beginning of the second half was a continuation of the first half, as Kaneland stopped the Mustangs on four plays, but then muffed the punt return, for fumble number 5, to give Evergreen Park the ball at the Kaneland 17 yard line.
Could the defense hold them again? The Mustangs went right at the knights grinding out 9 yards and on a 4th and 1 decided to go for it. They squeaked out 2 yards, for a 1st and goal from the 6.
Could this be the beginning of the end? A touchdown here, could bring an end the Knights dreams of a Championship. Evergreen Park would have the momentum and Kaneland's offense which had been spurting was still scoreless. 7 points would be gigantic. EP had to be feeling pretty good about things.
With this in mind, let's try to follow the action from the QB's perspective. This is what it must have been like if you where Quarterback Colin O'Donnell:
"OK, here we go, let's get these guys! Dominic, take it up gut. Ready - on two." You move under center. "Hut, hut". TOUCHDOWN. 'We did it. We did it.", you yell as your jumping in the air. But, out of the corner of your eye you see something yellow laying on the 5 yard line. 'What the...', you think. "No", not a holding penalty. 'Darn'.
So this time from the 15 you start again, "O.K. shake it off, slant on one". "Ready, Hut". Complete for 7 yards.
"Dominic take it up the middle. On one". "Hut". Kaboom! 'who was that? - Ian Thomas. Got to stay away from Thomas', you note.
"OK, let's do the slant again. That worked. On two." "Hut, Hut". "It looks good. Darn, it was knocked down, no wait, a flag. Yes, Yes, it's pass interference!" Your heart's pumpin'. You'll get the ball around the 4 with a first down. But wait, another penalty - this time on the Kaneland coach for complaining to much on the call - we'll get the ball on the 2. First down. 'Great, this will be like having ice cream with your cake', you think.
"Dominic, take it in", you bark. "Ready, on two". "Hut, hut." You hand him the ball and -- bang -- he's comming right back at you for a minus 2. Who hit him? Aaron who? Aaron Augusten? Wow, got to stay away from him.
"OK Dominic, try the other side. On one." "Hut". "What was that noise?" Then you realize it was Domminc getting leveled by Shane Bird. No gain. Now it's third and goal from the 4.
"We got to go back up top, their killing us on the ground. Z-45 right, on 2". "Hut, Hut".
You step back. 'Here comes the rush, steady, steady'. You let it go into the end zone. But the receiver was smothered by Nick Gillis, Rusty Pozen, and West. No way could he catch it. Fourth down.
"Send in Morley coach, let's go for the field goal". On comes Kicker Matt Morley, as you get ready to hold for him. Then you remember 'I can't ever underestimate the Knights defense'. "Hut, Hut". 'Got to be quick, here they come', you think as you place the ball for Morley. 'where's the laces, quick, quick, darn, ouch'. Kick wide right - no good.
You can only turn and trot off the field. As you look back over your shoulder, you like "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid", wondering 'who are those guys'.
We zoom back out, and scan Peterson field. The overflow crowd is on their feet, cheering on their Knights. Steve Goldman and team are weaving their hands in the air, making a connection with the fans, and getting the decimal leave even higher. The "D" has done it! This could very well have been the biggest defensive stand Kaneland football has ever seen.
But the offense could only manage 8 yards and had to punt. The Mustangs took over on their own 48. But just like last week the defense jump started the offense. On first down Kyle Schrader and West teamed up to stop the Mustangs for no gain. Then a blitzing Pozen got a sack for a loss of 10. An incomplete pass and the Mustangs had to punt, but were only able to get it up to the Kaneland 45, a net gain of 8 yards for the series.
Then Kaneland introduced Evergreen Park to "D2" or Dan Kenny. On the second play form scrimmage, "D2" broke through the Mustang defense and found daylight for a 53 yard TD romp. You had to stand to be able see one of the most beautiful sights ever to grace a Kaneland football fan's eyes -- the back of 40 with nobody in front of him. Sure Gladd added the extra point and with less than a minute left in the third quarter Kaneland was on their way.
The Knights "D" forced a 3 downs and punt, and entered the forth quarter leading 7-0, with the ball on their own 46. After an holding penalty, West took a screen pass and ran his way 34 yards to the EP 30 yard line. That's where "D2" took over the game.
From the Power-I formation Kaneland ran two plays the rest of the night -- a Power-I 12 ISO and a Power-I 30 trap. Both plays went over guard Brain Herra and tackle Andy Swanson. Both Herra and Swanson would level the lineman in front of them, then two trucks named Pozen and West came through the hole and cleared out the backers, while center Matt Brown and end B.J. Mires took care of any leakage on the sides. Then "D2" would follow the destruction with the ball. It was a lesson in offensive domination.
This is the way it went.
Kenny for 15, Kenny for 3, Kenny for 3, Kenny for 4, Kenny for 5, Touchdown! Gladd's kick was good and Kaneland was up 14-zip.
The Mustangs then started from their 22, but on third down Gillis picked off a O'Donnell pass and the Knights had the ball back again, this time on the their own 35.
Time for the power-I again.
Kenny for 8, Kenny for 3, Kenny for 12, Kenny for 5, Aaron Siebens for -3 (guess Thorgy though Kenny was a little tired), then Kenny for 7.
That made it 4th and one at the four. In came Gladd for to wrap up the game with a 22 yard field goal with only 2:42 remaining on the board. Kaneland 17 - Evergreen park 0.
When Kenny was asked how he felt about getting so much action, he simply stated, "It was getting a little old". Then added, "I guess it goes to show we're well conditioned", referring the team's success in the forth quarter this year.
With two minutes to play, came the only tarnish to a glistening evening, when Stazzone, cleared the Kaneland defense for a meaningless touchdown from 55 yards out. But that was the only moment of glory for the Mustangs as Kaneland took home one of the biggest victories in school history 17-7.
Coach Thorgesen was very happy with his team's performance, "We played hard on every down. We're a young team with key Seniors, and this showed we're getting better each week. We have learned how to practice, and our best football is still ahead of us".
When asked about the Knights key defensive stand in the third quarter, the coach replied " Well, with all our fumbles we've had lots of practice on goal line stands', he joked. "But we're a defensive team, and the defense has always played great. Our defense is just outstanding".
Kaneland held the powerhouse Mustangs to only 124 total yards toatal, while gaining 288 themselves. Kenny had 180 of those in 22 carries, while Pozen and West added 7 and 4 respectively. Aaron Siebens was 7-15 passing for 95 yards, with P.J. Fleck his favorite target with 4 grabs.
An interesting note to the game is that Stazzone gained 151 yards on the ground. The Mustangs accumulated 124 yards in total. That means in the 26 plays that Stazzone didn't run the ball, Evergreen Park lost 27 yards!
Kaneland (6-2 and 3-1 in the conference), takes on Westmont next Saturday. A win at Westmont, which is 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the conference, would assure the Knights the Division Championship and hopefully home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs, which begin November 1st or 2nd.
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