Everyone knows you go to school to learn the ABC's, but at Kaneland they learn D too. That's D for Defense. The "D" (as the fans call it) is so good, that Kaneland's football team is second in the Fox Valley in points allowed - less than 12 a game. And for the second game in a row, the defense kept the Knights in the game until the offense could get rolling, and carried the Knights to a 27-7 victory over the Herscher Tigers.
In the last two games the opposition has managed to score only three times on the Knights defense and all three started in the red zone as a result of Kaneland fumbles, at the 17, 20, and 13. Friday night showed the people from Herscher what Knight defense was, as the Knights allowed Herscher only 5 yards in their first 5 possessions. That's one yard each time they got the ball. That's 9 inches for each play they ran. Or to put another way, at that rate, if Herscher started from their own 20 yard line, it would take them until 10:43 Sunday morning to score a touchdown.
As a matter of fact the Knights aggressive defense set up their first score when Brian Herra hit a Herscher punt returner so hard, the ball flew loose. Kaneland pounced on it at Herscher's 32 yard marker and five plays later Eric Delaney hit Dan Kenny on a swing pass for a 11 yard TD. Matt glad added the point after for an early 7-0 Kaneland led. Then on their next possession Kaneland drove 55 yards on 11 plays, capped by a Kenny 9 yard scamper for a 14-0 first quarter led.
However, all was not rosy with the Knights offense, as they continued to sputter and backfire, with three fumbles in the first period. Fortunately they where able to recover all of them. But in the second quarter they weren't as lucky as they fumbled two more times, losing them both, with the latter leading to Herscher's only score.
That came with only 1:39 left in the first half. The Tigers, got the ball on Kaneland's 13 yard line. Then on a third and 8 from the 11, Kaneland held the Tigers, but a face mask penalty gave Herscher new life. Two plays later Aaron Olson crossed the goal line from the one, with only 21 seconds left in the half. The point after was good and the Knights led was down to one touchdown at 14-7.
Even though the Knights lead during the Senior's night celebration, the curse of the fumble continued to hang over their heads. With 5 more fumbles in the first half, Kaneland had 21 fumbles in the last 10 quarters, leading one to wonder, what is the Illinois state record for fumbles in a season?
The second half started no better for the Knights, actually it was worse. The Knights received the kick off only to fumble the ball on the return at their own 30. Tigers ball. As usual the defense stopped them and the Tigers attempted a field goal from the 25. But Steve Goldman blocked the kick and Kaneland's shaky 7 point lead was safe, at least for now. However, on the very next play, the Tigers picked off a Kaneland pass and started again, this time from their own 45.
Herscher managed to move the ball 25 yards, but on a third and two from the Kaneland 32, B.J. Mires, with help from Goldman sacked the Tiger QB for a 15 yard loss to dash any hopes Herscher had of scoring. However, the harder Kaneland worked the luckier Herscher got, as their punt ended up on the Kaneland one. In 6 plays the Knights could only move to the 20, thanks to another fumble for a minus 5 yards. A 6 yard punt against the wind gave the Tigers the ball on the Kaneland 26.
Just like an old 45 RPM record with the needle stuck, the Knights had their backs to the wall again, and again the Knights defense had to dig in. The Tigers moved the ball to the 5 creating a second and 3 situation.
The Kaneland "D" got pumped. They knew they had to stop the Tigers and had to do it now. The Tigers ran up the middle - bang, Rusty Pozen, no gain. Next a run outside - smash Nick Gillis, a minus 2. Then on 4th and 5 from the seven, the Tigers went for all the marbles with a pass into the end zone, but Paul Aspengren was there to knock it away. The Defense had done it again. The Kaneland fans, who where out numbered for the first time (and probably last time) this year, let their team know, how they felt, with a burst of cheers. The defense was keeping Kaneland alive. "That's the best the defensive line has played all year", said Steve Goldman.
The Knight offense couldn't move the ball and did the dreaded "three plays and punt" routine. However, they did manage to hold on to the ball for all four plays.
Back came the "D". Thank God for the defense. They drove the tigers back 15 yards and with a punt of 10 yards, gained a net 5 yards, generating Kaneland's best offense attack of the quarter.
Like last week, when the whistle blew for the forth quarter, it acted like a reveille call, and woke up Kaneland's sleeping lion offense. They started at their own forty, with a swing pass to P.J. Fleck, zip left, then right, then left again, zip right, 20 yards! The Knights were finally on the Tiger's side of the field, and to the relief of the Kaneland coaching staff, the ball would remain there for the rest of the game.
After a pair of punts the Knights got the ball back on the Herscher 46, midway into the final quarter. How could this game still be this close? But 5 plays later the Knights finally found themselves celebrating in that all to elusive end zone, thanks to a Aaron Siebens to P.J. Fleck 17 yard pass. Gladd's kick made it 21-7. With the Knights defense playing like it was, everyone knew the long ride home was going to be a pleasent one.
Then the "D" did their thing, as a Kyle Schrader sacked the QB for a minus 9 yards. Chad Herst followed with his own sack for another minus 10 yards, forcing the Tiger's to punt from the one yard line. The Knights got the ball only 29 yards away from happy land. Three plays later Ryan West took a 17 yard pitch for the distance and the final tally. Gladd who kicked off 5 times all into the end zone for touchbacks, missed the extra point for the final score of 27-7.
In the end the Knights had 240 yards to Hescher's 38! Dan Kenny had 81 of them in 20 tries and Ryan West added 40 more. P.J. Fleck lead all recievers with 7 grabs for 45 yards, while Eric Delaney was 3 for 4 passing with 21 yards and Aaron Siebens 9 for 13 for 70 yards.
The victory left the Knights (5-2 and 2-1 in the conference) poised for the biggest game of year, this Friday against Evergreen Park. First it is Homecoming, second it is the last regular season home game, third it will be for the division championship, and lastly it will have major state playoff implications.
Evergreen Park is 3-0, in the conference and 5-2 overall, Yorkville is 2-1 and 5-2. A win by the Knights and all three schools would be tied for first place, (assuming Yorkville wins) at 3-1. With the tie breaker being the point differential between the tied teams, a Knight victory of 8 or more points along with a win over Westmont the following week and the Knights would be division champions. In addition they would be assured a spot in the state playoffs. For more information about the rules for the playoffs, conference standings, photo gallery of this years team in action, and this seasons history, checkout this site.
So come on, support your Knights, on Knights Knight, Friday night. Bring your bells, bring your horns, bring your voice, but don't bring your mittens. Come and howler, yell, scream, and cheer your Knights on to a championship and enjoy the ride into the playoffs.
It just doesn't get any better than this!!
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