MAPLE PARK – No Drew David, no problem for Kaneland.
With its starting quarterback sidelined with an arm injury, the Knights proved they could win by keeping the ball on the ground.
Junior running back Jesse Balluff and junior quarterback Tyler Carlson combined for 286 rushing yards and the Knights (8-0, 4-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) remained undefeated with a 30-7 victory against Sycamore (5-3, 2-2).
“[Carlson] prepared so well this whole week,” Balluff said. “It was great that he stepped up like that.”
Sycamore scored on its opening possession, converting a key fourth-and-5, and Austin Culton capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run around the left end for an early 7-0 lead.
But the Kaneland defense settled in after the opening drive and gave up only 52 total yards of offense the rest of the game.
“We came out and shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” junior linebacker Gary Koehring said. “They were a great team, and [Culton] is a heck of a running back. Everybody started getting in a groove.”
Even without David, Kaneland had little trouble offensively.
Carlson and Balluff combined to do all the work on the Knights’ first possession, and Carlson finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Kaneland took the lead for good when Koehring tackled Sycamore’s Dion Hooker in the end zone for a safety, giving the Knights a 9-7 advantage late in the first quarter.
After both offenses stalled for much of the second quarter, Kaneland picked up a key third down on Carlson’s first completion – a 16-yard pass to Brandon Bishop – and Balluff ran in for a 10-yard touchdown on the next play to put the Knights up 16-7 at halftime.
“Their offensive line is really good, and we knew that,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan. “They did a nice job of getting us off the ball, and they did what they wanted to do in their running game.”
Kaneland’s defense continued to make big plays in the second half as the Knights stuffed Sycamore on two crucial fourth downs.
Balluff and Carlson each scored second-half touchdowns to put the game out of reach.