Conference: Northern Illinois Big 12 (East)
Leave it to a household Kaneland football name to express optimism about the Knights' flood of fresh faces.
"Everyone's excited to see all the new players, because last year, obviously, a lot of guys graduated," wide receiver Connor Fedderly said. "People want to see what this team's going to be, and we're excited to come out and play."
Fedderly, the son of veteran coach Tom, is a waterboy turned ballboy turned senior leader in his third varsity season. The Knights will look for him to shine alongside classmate Isaac Swithers, a free safety and running back who took an increased role in the offensive backfield last season after injuries sidelined the since-graduated Jesse Balluff, one of several impact players to receive diplomas.
Tom Fedderly touts Swithers' size, strength and aggressiveness along with his versatility. It figures to come in handy as junior Jake Marczuk takes over for another longtime incumbent, Drew David, at quarterback.
"Jake Marczuk is looking pretty good. … He's had a pretty good summer, good 7-on-7s, and I like what I see with him," Tom Fedderly said. "He's a pretty good athlete at quarterback. He's going to be able to run and throw."
Kaneland's defense again blends size and speed, highlighted by brawny lineman Andrew Kray and linebacker Jake Gomes, who played as sophomores in 2013. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Gomes brings plenty of physicality alongside senior Danny Hammermeister.
Although Fedderly is leery about having too many Knights join Swithers as two-way starters, Gomes and Hammermeister could also see offensive line duty. Senior center ZackThielk anchors the front five.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
Coach: Tom Fedderly (58-19, eighth season)
2013 record: 9-2 overall, 4-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Lost to Joliet Catholic, 45-8, in second round of Class 5A playoffs.
Fast fact: Kaneland has scored at least 400 points each year since the Northern Illinois Big 12's inception in 2010, topping out at 521 points in 2011.
Special teams spotlight: Placekicker Drew Franklin takes over the position after longtime stalwart Matt Rodriguez's graduation. Quarterback Jake Marczuk also will punt.
Bottom line: New players have shuttled in and out each season during Fedderly's remarkable run, but the graduation exodus was a little bigger this time around. Through it all, the spread scheme has remained robust on offense, leaving the Knights optimistic about another playoff trip.
Memory banked: "Last year when [2014 graduate] Jesse Balluff basically took me under his wing and made me the football player that I am. He was always there for me and gave me good advice and helped me to get better, always asking to go do extra workouts and stuff."– Isaac Swithers, Sr., RB/S
Aug. 29 vs. Brooks 7:15 p.m.Sept. 5 Marshall (7 p.m.Sept. 12 Rich Central 7:15 p.m.Sept. 19 @ Yorkville 7:15 p.m.Sept. 26 DeKalb 7:15 p.m.Oct. 3 @Sycamore 7:15 p.m.Oct. 10 Morris 7:15 p.m.Oct. 17 @ La Salle-Peru 7:15 p.m.Oct. 24 Rochelle 7:15 p.m.
Marquee matchup: Oct. 3, at Sycamore. This game always carries cachet given the schools' storied history as rivals. In 2014, there's quite the wrinkle: The Spartans sullied the Knights' 18-0 start in NI Big 12 East play last fall, becoming the first team not called Kaneland to win a league title.
Aug. 30 Brooks W, 27-7Sept. 6 IC Catholic Prep W, 45-14Sept. 13 Sterling W, 48-7Sept. 20 Streator W, 42-0Sept. 27 Rochelle W, 49-20Oct. 4 DeKalb W, 35-12Oct. 11 Yorkville W, 41-0Oct. 18 Sycamore L, 31-21Oct. 25 Morris W, 49-14Nov. 1 Hampshire W, 35-0Nov. 9 Joliet Catholic L, 45-8