Todd Hallaron was both baffled and impressed as he watched Kaneland’s game tape for hours leading up to the Barbs’ Sept. 28 game against the Knights.
Whenever the DeKalb coach saw something that was working for Kaneland’s opposition one game, in the slightest bit – like Brooks’ ability to run around the edges – the Knights would shut down that aspect of their opponent’s game the next week. Whenever a team tried to neutralize the Kaneland passing game, its running game would take over, and vice-versa.
The first-year coach realized he had a problem that practically was unsolvable.
“Whatever you plan on working going in isn’t going to work,” Hallaron said. “Ultimately, they take away what you’re trying to game plan against. When you think you can move them, you can use their lack of speed to your advantage, they just pick apart their game plan.”
The Barbs did reasonably well against the Kaneland defense, and still stand as the only opponent to score more than one touchdown against the Knights in the past six weeks, but they still lost handily, 66-23.
Since its 25-24 win against Chicago Brooks in the season opener, Kaneland has beaten each opponent by at least 17 points.
“If they were to lose, I’d have to ask the coach who beat them [how],” Hallaron said. “So far, they’ve had eight coaches that have come up short. They’re a solid group.”
Coaches around northern Illinois haven’t been able to figure out how to beat Kaneland, but they did offer a few pointers to prospective opponents.
Disrupt rhythm on offense and defense...
Huntley came closer to beating Kaneland than any team aside from Brooks in a 52-35 loss to in Week 2. A second-half comeback had the Red Raiders within a touchdown in the third quarter.
But in the first half, things didn’t look as good. Junior quarterback Drew David threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns before the Red Raiders began to slow the junior down.
“When you have a quarterback like he is and the kids he’s throwing to, you have to break rhythm,” Huntley coach John Hart said. “After halftime, we really just came after them. We just started trying to bring as many different looks and pressures that we possibly could and it was very effective.”
Don’t even try blitzing...
Yorkville coach Karl Hoinkes said his team simply was “trying to survive” in his team’s 55-0 loss two weeks ago. He did learn an important lesson: Don’t blitz against Kaneland.
“You cannot blitz them, that’s one thing you can’t do,” Hoinkes said. “They read the blitz pick-ups so well and the receivers change their routes. You have to change up your coverages. You need to probably give them the run and stop the pass. I would try and make them earn every yard you can on the ground. The big-play pass kills people.”
Control the clock...
Sycamore began their Oct. 12 game against Kaneland with a six-minute scoring drive. After that, the Spartans’ 30-7 defeat became ugly.
But Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said that he thinks a team has to have long drives that consume the clock and keep David on the sideline for as much time as possible to have a fighting shot.
“You want it to be a lower-scoring game,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to control possession and have long drives that consume the clock and take offensive opportunities away from them. That’s also easier said than done, because their defense is outstanding.”
Try to make them one-dimensional and pray that it rains…
The Knights are so versatile on offense that it’s nearly impossible to shut them down completely.
David leads the area with 1,483 passing yards, adding 320 rushing yards, and running back Jesse Balluff is third in the area in rushing with 635 yards.
Hallaron said opponents must focus on shutting down either the Knights’ passing game or their running game, because stopping both would be next to impossible.
“If you can minimize the run, or keep it to a level that’s acceptable, and disrupt the passing game, you stand a chance,” Hallaron said. “You almost have to make them one-dimensional.”
It also wouldn’t hurt if the weather was a little bit sloppy.
“I think you’d need a little help from mother nature,” Hallaron said. “I think you need to get into a sloppy, rainy situation, and then you might neutralize a little of the passing game, and then it becomes between the tackles and running.”
Be bigger, faster and stronger...
Year after year, the Knights have had talent across the skill positions, but coaches agree their lines are what set them apart in 2012.
“Their offensive line and their defensive line is about as good as they’ve had,” Ryan said.
If a team is bigger and better on the line of scrimmage, it can entertain the possibility of shutting down the Knights.
“Their offensive line gives their quarterback so much time to throw,” Hallaron said. “They’re very big, very physical, and they can move people around.”
Ultimately, a team simply has to have the talent, the size and the speed to run with the athletic Knights, because coaches agree that the Kaneland staff probably won’t be out-coached.
“If you can guard them man to man, you’ve got it made,” Hoinkes said. “If you’ve got kids who can run with them, you can do a lot. I don’t see many teams in [5A or 6A] that can run with them. They’re pretty good. They do a lot with the quarterback running the ball that can really hurt you.”