Kaneland cruises in playoff opener
For the second consecutive year, Kaneland's football team handed visiting Belvidere an early exit from the Class 5A state playoffs.
This time, it came in much different fashion.
A year ago, the Knights were pushed to the limit by the Bucs after giving up 567 yards of total offense during a wild 51-45 first-round playoff victory.
On Saturday night, the top-seeded Knights (10-0) were much stingier, holding Belvidere (5-5) to 74 total yards and just 3 first downs during their 48-0 opening round triumph.
Junior cornerback Dylan Nauert led the defense with 3 of his team's 4 interceptions, as the Knights recorded their fourth shutout in 10 games.
"I've been studying all week, watching their pass plays and reading their breaks," said Nauert, who also collected a pair of tackles. "I saw the slant, I saw the out. I just broke on the ball and happened to be right there."
Nauert's performance was far from a matter-of-fact one to Knights coach Tom Fedderly.
"What a great game for him," said Fedderly. "We gave him the tough assignment. We put him on number 23 (Kane Steger), who is a phenomenal athlete. He really torched us last year. That was a big responsibility on defense and boy, did he (Nauert) come through."
Steger finished with 1 reception for 10 yards.
Junior tailback Jesse Balluff (17 carries, 110 yards) scored out of the Wildcat formation on Kaneland's first 2 possessions.
He took a direct snap and raced 41 yards for a touchdown just 1:21 into the game and added a 1-yard TD run on a 4th-and-goal play moments after Blake Bradford had recovered a fumbled high snap from center inside the Bucs' 10-yard line.
Kaneland utilized the Wildcat formation on 6 of its first 8 plays from scrimmage.
"We did it the last couple weeks but we came out with some different looks and different formations," said Balluff. "I think that may have caught them off guard."
Junior quarterback Drew David (8-of-17, 128 yards) scored on a 1-yard sneak and Matt Rodriguez added field goals of 35 and 24 yards, respectively, as the Knights built a 27-0 halftime cushion.
"Special teams were a big part of this, too," said Fedderly.
Kaneland outgained Belvidere, 192-33, in the first half and continued its assault from both sides of the ball in the second half.
David connected with Kyle Pollastrini on a 56-yard TD pass to make it 34-0. Following Nauert's third interception of the game, fullback Nate Dyer's 1-yard TD run upped the lead to 41-0 after 3 quarters.
Backup quarterback Tyler Carlson capped the scoring with a 30-yard TD run with 5:12 remaining, and Tanner Andrews' late interception sealed the Knights' shutout bid.
"The effort we had defensively was just outstanding," said Fedderly, whose squad limited the Bucs to 17 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Belvidere's first-round scare from last season that was engineered by quarterback Troy Vandenbroek certainly served as a reminder for the Knights' defense. "We had some sleepless nights looking at the game we played last year against him," Fedderly said of fourth-year starter Vandenbroek. "He had a phenomenal game against us.
"They're a great team with a lot of good weapons," added the coach. "They had our full attention."
The Knights now turn their attention to next weekend's second-round matchup against Lincoln-Way West (7-3) in New Lenox. The Warriors defeated Rochelle, 35-0, Friday night.
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