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The INSIDER: Football

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Jesse Balluff
Kaneland, junior, running back

Balluff scored the first two Kaneland touchdowns in the first half of the Knights’ dominating win over Streator.


Ottawa at Sycamore, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Sycamore’s last crossover game will feature a matchup with undefeated Ottawa, which beat DeKalb last weekend.

Kaneland at Rochelle, 7 p.m. Friday
Another matchup between undefeated teams, Kaneland will gets its toughest test of the season to date with a road trip to Rochelle.


1. Kaneland (4-0): The Knights overwhelmed a winless Streator squad on the road and posted their second straight shutout.
2. Sycamore (4-0): The Spartans beat a good Geneseo team on the road and the offense continues to put up big numbers.
3. Genoa-Kingston (2-2): G-K put itself back in the playoff picture with a dominating 37-7 victory over Rockford Christian.
4. Hiawatha (2-2): Hiawatha lost a close game away from home and will try to rebound this week against North Shore Country Day.
5. DeKalb (0-4): DeKalb was leading Ottawa in the second half, but couldn’t close the deal on its upset attempt.

NOTEBOOK: New mistakes popping up for Barbs

Mistakes have been a consistent issue for the DeKalb football team this season.

The problem for coach Todd Hallaron is that he doesn’t know what mistakes his team will make from one week to the next.

First, tackling was a problem against Galesburg. Then, two sacks on punts cost them the game against Hampshire. Against Sycamore, the team arrived late and fell under pressure in the first half.

Against Ottawa, the Barbs had four fumbles and several costly penalties in a 38-17 loss.

“It’s incredibly difficult to correct mistakes when new mistakes pop up,” Hallaron said.

The Barbs led, 17-10, at the end of the first half, but the second half was disastrous. Illinois commit Miguel Hermasillo scored three rushing touchdowns for Ottawa, and the Pirates held the Barbs to 39 rushing yards after they tallied 179 in the first half.

“The difference between the second half and the first half, our defense was on the field quite a bit, but we had made adjustments,” Hallaron said. “We had a game plan. In the first half, it worked fantastic. In the second half, I think we were worn down, and a few calls don’t go our way.”

Surging Knights try to stay level-headed
Kaneland has played its share of laughers during a regular-season winning streak that reached 23 games 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.”

Veterans such as Lawrence, running back Jesse 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.”

Overcoming turnovers
Although Sycamore possesses a 4-0 record, the Spartans haven’t been perfect in their ball protection.

Sycamore has been prone to fumbles, giving away two in its Week 1 victory over Lincoln-Way West and another pair Friday against Geneseo. Both fumbles against the Maple Leafs led directly to Geneseo touchdowns.

The Spartans also failed to recover the opening kickoff on a pooch kick by Geneseo.

Mottet fights through pain
Sycamore junior quarterback Devin Mottet showed no signs of the ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the second half in Week 3 against DeKalb.

Mottet went 5-for-10 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 25 yards, including a 19-yard scramble in the third quarter.

“He’s been icing and doing everything he can do all week and he came out ready to go,” junior receiver Ben Niemann said. “He didn’t even act like he was hurt.”

Mottet has yet to throw an interception this season in 45 attempts.

• Ross Jacobson, Anthony Zilis and Kevin Druley contributed to this report.

VIEWS: Teachers’ strike a reminder of the privilege to play

On Aug. 25, Kaneland returned back to Maple Park after playing Chicago Brooks on the road in its season opener.

The Knights eked out a 25-24 win, extending their regular-season winning streak to 20 games. Three weeks later Kaneland remains undefeated, now preparing for a showdown with Rochelle on Friday.

Brooks’ football future, however, is a little more uncertain. Scheduled to play Collins Academy last weekend, Brooks had its game canceled because of the Chicago Public Schools teachers strike. An IHSA bylaw prohibits teams from playing interscholastic contests during a strike. The CPS requested a waiver for its schools, but was denied by the IHSA board of directors.

The effects of the teachers strike for DeKalb County football are minimal. None of our five local schools is scheduled to play any CPS teams for the rest of the regular season, so no games are in danger of being canceled.

And with Kaneland already at four wins and ranked in The Associated Press poll, it’s unlikely the Knights will have to rely on the playoff points tiebreaker to make the postseason.

Nonetheless Brooks’ situation is a good reminder for all high school students that the ability to participate in any extra-curricular activity is special. Forget the recruiting exposure and college scholarship questions for senior recruits at CPS schools. If you read the quotes in the local media from all of these students, they just want to be back on the field.

Representatives from both sides of the CPS issue are expected to meet again this week, trying to iron out an agreement.

But until then, Brooks, and all of the other CPS schools, can only watch while their counterparts nationwide take the field.

Enjoy every night under the lights. Who knows when or why they could turn off. 

• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Contact him by email at

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