SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Kaneland, junior, receiver Nauert caught five passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in Kaneland’s blowout victory over Rochelle.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Morris at Sycamore, 7:30 p.m. Friday Sycamore will host an undefeated team for the second week in a row, hoping for a better result in Week 6.
DeKalb at Kaneland, 7:30 p.m. Friday The Barbs travel to Kaneland for their toughest test of the season, but have some momentum after their first win of the season.
1. Kaneland (5-0): The Knights have absolutely punished teams over the past three weeks, outscoring opponents, 117-6. 2. Sycamore (4-1): Sycamore was hurt by a couple special teams mistakes and couldn’t get the offense going in a 10-6 loss to Ottawa. 3. Genoa-Kingston (2-3): G-K couldn’t hold on to a second-half lead against Burlington Central as the Rockets handed the Cogs their first conference loss. 4. Hiawatha (2-3): The Hawks never threatened North Shore, falling for the second straight week. 5. DeKalb (1-4): DeKalb got its first win of the season with a dominating effort over Streator.
NOTEBOOK: Tough decision doesn’t work out
There were a number of questions for coach Joe Ryan to consider when the Sycamore football team found itself facing fourth-and-goal at the Ottawa 1-yard line, trailing, 7-0, early in the second quarter.
Should he go back to starting quarterback Devin Mottet, who was hurt two plays earlier while recovering a botched snap? Or continue with backup Nick Feuerbach, who had seen some game action against DeKalb? Should he hand the ball off to Austin Culton? Or give it to Ben Niemann on a direct snap?
“Nick Feuerbach was in there, and going under [center] there we had some trouble with the snap during the week, so I didn’t want to go under with it,” Ryan said.
In the end, Ryan put the ball in Feuerbach’s hands, calling for the junior quarterback to make a quick throw to his right. The pass fell incomplete and Ottawa took over on downs. Unfortunately for the Spartans, who only scored once against Ottawa’s stingy defense, it was a game-changer.
“I didn’t have a problem with him throwing that ball,” Ryan said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
D-line drives Kaneland
No matter the situation, Rochelle was going to run against Kaneland on Friday night. When the Knights’ defensive line dominated up front, the Hubs still focused on the running game.
It didn’t work too well. Kaneland’s defense was able to handle Rochelle’s Wing-T attack, pushing around the offensive line. The Knights held the Hubs’ vaunted rushing attack to less than 3 yards a carry.
To Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly, his team’s defensive success all starts with the defensive line, which, he says, has improved as the season has progressed.
“They are just getting better and better. After the first week, we needed to make some improvements,” Fedderly said. “They’ve done a good job. Found out what they’re good at. They’re so big. They’re hard to move and it allows our linebackers to run free. Everything that we do starts with those guys up front.”
DeKalb’s line play improves
After his best performance of the season in DeKalb’s 49-6 win over Streator on Friday, quarterback Jack Sauter made a point to deflect some of the praise.
Sauter stepped up without running back Dre Brown, who was out with a concussion, and completed 15 of 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 99 yards and three touchdowns. But after struggling at times early in the season, Sauter thought the Barbs’ offensive line stepped up to make his big day possible.
“They played stellar [Friday]. They came out, they fired off the ball and they gave me plenty of time to make plays,” Sauter said. “I’m in the stat section for the paper, but they’re the guys up front that make it possible.”
The Barbs’ offensive line has been beat up all season, and two starters missed Friday’s game. But coach Todd Hallaron was encouraged with his reserves’ play.
“The blocking was fantastic all night long,” Hallaron said. “It’s tough when you replace guys up front. It’s been that way pretty much every week. … This week, our offensive line really stepped up.”
• Ross Jacobson, Steve Nitz and Anthony Zilis contributed to this report.
VIEWS: Postseason picture unclear, except for Knights
With Week 5 in the books, we’ve passed the midway point of the regular season and are now fully into conference play with four games remaining.
While there is still a lot of football left to be played, at this point in the season we usually start developing a pretty good idea of which teams look postseason-bound. This season, the picture isn’t so clear.
Kaneland is the only team that appears to be a lock for the playoffs. The Knights already have reached the five-win mark and should be considered the favorites in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference’s East Division.
Although Sycamore (4-1) is just one win short of playoff eligibility, the Spartans have a tough road ahead with games against Yorkville, Rochelle, Morris and Kaneland, all teams with winning records. However, three of those four games are at home.
Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha are in similar positions, both sitting at 2-3. The Cogs and Hawks each missed opportunities to take a step toward the postseason last week, but still have a doable path to the playoffs. Both teams face tough opponents in Weeks 6 and 7, and will need at least a split before winnable games in the last two weeks.
DeKalb will need to run the table against the NI Big 12 East to have a shot at a postseason berth.
Four more games in Week 6 could start to clear things up. Or they could become even more murky.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.