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Prep Football Insider: Surging Knights try to stay level-headed

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Don Lansu – For the Kane County Chronicle)
Huntley running back Ethan Connor (4) picks up short yardage before being brought down by Kaneland defenders Gary Koehring (5) and John Pruett (12) during the second quarter Aug. 31 in Huntley.

Kaneland has played its share of laughers during a regular-season winning streak that reached 23 games on Friday.

The Knights' 41-0 road shutout of Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover foe Streator was the latest, and players approached it with the same even keel.

"Yeah, we've had pretty strong confidence, but we don't get overly cocky with it," senior linebacker Ryan Lawrence said. "We try to stay calm. If we don't treat each game like the most important game of the year, then the chances are we won't have a good outcome."

Mired in a near-opposite streak than their neighbors to the north (and east, for NI Big 12 divisional purposes), Streator lost its 22nd successive game, dating to the 2010 season opener. Streator opened with a no-huddle offense and reached the Kaneland 48-yard line on its first series, where the Bulldogs went for a first down on fourth-and-3.

A high snap bounded backward, and Lawrence eventually corralled quarterback Stephen Truchon for a loss of 22. Jesse Balluff scored his second touchdown seven plays later, and the Knights had a 14-0 lead with the ensuing point-after.

Kaneland's defense matched the offense's effectiveness after that, getting interceptions from Lawrence and John Pruett. Lawrence returned his pick 34 yards for a touchdown, triggering the running clock for the second half.

On the heels of a 42-0 shutout of three-time defending NI Big 12 West winner Sterling, the Knights welcomed the familiar ground, especially after Huntley attacked them down the stretch of Kaneland's Week 2 win.

"Our defense, we've been pushing ourselves really hard in practice. We're growing a lot as a team and a family," Lawrence said. "It's all starting to come together, and everybody's starting to learn how one another plays."

Veterans such as Lawrence, Balluff, offensive tackle Alex Snyder and quarterback Drew David are well-versed in the Knights' businesslike approach during the week and on game day.

As the competition stiffens with Friday's NI Big 12 East opener at Rochelle, that certainly won't change.

"I've been really happy with our practices the last few weeks," Knights coach Tom Fedderly said. "The kids are really focused in, and they want to be good."

Geneva's Griffin likely OK Geneva appears to have dodged another entry to its substantial injury report. Standout linebacker Colin Griffin left Friday's home win against Larkin with an injury, and the team was unsure of its scope at the end of the game.

In an email Monday, Vikings coach Rob Wicinski wrote Geneva still was "not completely sure" what happened, but "I believe [Griffin] will be able to play" in this week's Upstate Eight Conference River Division game at St. Charles North.

The Vikings have been heavily affected by injuries this season. Defensive lineman Nathan Balettie, out for the first three games after battling a concussion, made his season debut against Larkin.

Getting up to spread Aurora Central Catholic thumped Chicago Christian, 59-19, Friday in a week that featured more blowouts than not for Chronicle-area teams.

ACC coach Brian Casey didn't bemoan the lack of a shutout, but could pinpoint the area that kept the 3-1 Chargers from flirting with one.

"I'll tell you one thing, when teams run the ball we're all over the run, but we'll get acclimated to the pass," Casey said. "Chicago Christian threw the ball on us more than we've seen, and we've got some passing teams coming up."

The Chargers are set to visit the more noted aerial-minded teams remaining on their schedule, namely Montini in Week 9.

IN THE GROOVEBobby Hess
Geneva, Sr., RB
What he did:
Helping Geneva to its first victory of the season, 56-23 against Larkin, Hess rushed 22 times for 248 yards and five touchdowns. Each of his scores came consecutively in the first half as Geneva rolled to a 35-0 advantage before taking a 42-7 lead into halftime.

Ryan McQuade
Aurora Christian, Sr., QB
What he did:
McQuade finished 26 of 39 for 344 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in Friday's 55-7 rout of Wheaton Academy in a Suburban Christian Conference crossover.

WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK You CAN spell Tri-Cities without "schneid." Previously winless St. Charles North and Geneva both notched their first victories of the season Friday, pummeling respective U-46 foes Elgin and Larkin to improve to 1-3. The North Stars host the Vikings this week in what, practically speaking, could be a playoff-elimination game for both teams.

WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD Who's got more SCC swag after Aurora Christian hosts St. Francis in an SCC Blue contrast of styles on Friday. The Spartans suffered their first defeat of the season against traditionally-potent Montini last week, but the unbeaten Eagles enter the game on arguably a more high-flying offensive ride. St. Francis can ill afford another loss in its bid for a league title, hardware the Eagles are coveting, too.

COACH SLY SAYS

Two teams have one, another has two and yet another has four. Whatever side you pull for in the Tri-Cities, though, it's gotta be gratifying that each school now has a 'W' under its belt.

Sly figured STC North and Geneva would get their victory formations on last weekend, but now one of those clubs is guaranteed to taste defeat again given the Week 5 matchup on Red Gate. That one's gonna have playoff implications. Yup, folks, it's still possible for both of these schools to climb to the postseason.

It wasn't long ago that both St. Chuck schools, Batavia and Geneva did that annually. Hopefully it won't be that far off again.

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