MAPLE PARK – Kaneland quarterback Drew David romped into the Rochelle secondary when he wasn’t finding open receivers there.
Defensive lineman Justin Diddell crashed into Hubs ball-carriers with no sight of a hole.
The second half of the Knights’ 49-20 victory against Rochelle on Friday sure made the first half look misleading. With its stranglehold on the Northern Illinois Big 12 East seemingly in peril in the conference opener, Kaneland responded with a second-half shutout while revving up its offense to boot.
“We actually woke up,” Diddell said. “We came out in the second half with our head on straight. We were just ready to hit somebody.”
Kaneland stretched its regular-season winning streak to 33 games, a run that includes four victories against Rochelle by an average of just under 27 points.
David connected with John Pruett for a go-ahead touchdown of 34 yards just before halftime.
In the fourth quarter, David found Pruett for a 37-yard score while rushing for a 57-yard TD that accounted for the final margin with Matt Rodriguez’s point-after.
The Knights (5-0, 1-0 NI Big 12 East) led just 21-20 at halftime.
“I think we can throw it when we have to, and I think we can run it when we have to,” Knights coach Tom Fedderly said. “I try to keep it balanced and just take what the defense gives us.”
For Rochelle (4-1, 0-1), closing the gap hinged on a handful of factors, namely the offense’s ability to keep the Knights’ vaunted spread attack off the field.
Veteran Hubs coach Kevin Crandall, long a disciple of time-honored, Wing-T football, added a handful of other formations entering the season to maximize the talents of quarterback Angel Burciaga, running back Evan White and fullback Marquez Felix.
Yes, that was Rochelle working out of the spread in spots Friday, but a week of film study put Kaneland in position to stop it. The Hubs had 198 yards of total offense.
“When you go up against good teams, they’re usually the ones who run everything, and they’re a good team and started running everything,” Diddell said. “They got a little bit of passing motion going, so they’re improving as a team.”
Playing without left tackle Joe Komel (foot) for the second successive game, a Kaneland running attack already missing running back Jesse Balluff (torn ACL) adjusted behind the rest of its burly front five.
Fullback Nate Dyer had a pair of short touchdown plunges, while tailback Isaac Swithers rushed 14 times for 86 yards and a score.
The teams traded 90-plus yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in the first 32 seconds – Kaneland’s Dylan Nauert’s dash preceded White’s – before settling in.
While the Hubs showed the overflow Peterson Field crowd a few variations on what they’re used to seeing, the Knights’ familiar bravado ultimately prevailed.
Facing the reality of a rare halftime deficit as time wound down on the second quarter, the Knights lined up for a second down play from their own 34 with seven seconds to play. Moments earlier, a holding call negated a go-ahead scoring pass from Drew David to Nauert, but even with a timeout remaining and booming kicker Matt Rodriguez practicing on the sideline, the Knights still eyed the end zone.
They got there as time expired on the half, with Pruett slipping behind the Rochelle secondary and snagging David’s arching pass down the right sideline.
“With the weapons that we have and with Drew, there’s always a chance, so we’re going to go for it,” Fedderly said.
Tension or not.
Note: White left Peterson Field on a stretcher after tweaking his back late in the game and was taken to the hospital.
KANELAND 49, ROCHELLE 20
Rochelle 12 8 0 0 – 20
Kaneland 15 6 7 21 – 49
HOW THEY SCORED
K – Nauert 92 kickoff return (Rodriguez kick), 11:43
R – White 96 kickoff return, (kick failed), 11:28
K – Dyer 5 run (David pass), 5:28
R – Felix 4 run (pass failed), 1:48
R – White 4 run (Burciaga pass)
K – Pruett 34 pass from David (kick failed), 0:00
K – Swithers 19 run (Rodriguez kick), 8:42
K – Dyer 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 11:06
K – Pruett 37 pass from David (Rodriguez kick), 7:18
K – David 57 run (Rodriguez kick), 4:55
RUSHING – Rochelle: White 12-37, Sprowl 8-28, Felix 10-27, Willis 2-12, Burciaga 2-(-9). Totals: 34-95. Kaneland: David 6-129, Swithers 14-86, Dyer 7-31. Totals: 27-246.
PASSING – Rochelle: Burciaga 6-12-103-0-1. Kaneland: David 10-20-177-2-1.
RECEIVING – Rochelle: White 3-66, Akers 3-37. Kaneland: Pruett 4-82, Nauert 4-59, Bishop 1-13, Fedderly 1-13.
Total offense: Kaneland 423, Rochelle 198.
Sophomore game: Kaneland 36, Rochelle 12