Kaneland just finished running through its third consecutive undefeated regular season. It also is the third consecutive season the Knights have won the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East title. After losing to Montini in the IHSA Class 5A semifinals last season, Kaneland hopes to get over the hump and make a trip to Champaign in 2012.
The top-seeded Knights open up playoff competition against No. 16 Belvidere at 7 p.m. today. The Knights came close to a state championship appearance the past two seasons.
Here are five reasons 2012 is Kaneland’s best shot at a state title:
1. The Knights feature balanced offense
Kaneland has been known as a passing team in recent years with its spread offense. Sophomore quarterback Drew David can beat teams with his arm, and the Knights have a nice group of playmakers David can throw to.
But the Knights aren’t a one-dimensional team. Running back Jesse Balluff has run for 775 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. David also has 59 carries for Kaneland, and Nate Dyer is used in short-yardage situations.
SFlb2. Coach Tom Fedderly’s team has been tested
Take a look at Kaneland’s schedule. For starters, the Northern Illinois Big 12 East is one of the toughest Class 5A-6A conferences in the state, and the Knights rolled through it. In nonconference play, Kaneland defeated Huntley (6-3 record) and Chicago Brooks (6-2). The Knights shut out a 6-3 Sterling team in one of their NI Big 12 crossover wins.
Having a tough slate like Kaneland’s always helps out come postseason time.
SFlb3. Kaneland has one of the top quarterbacks in Class 5A
David finished the regular season completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,691 yards, 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Marian Central’s Chris Streveler, a Minnesota commit, is arguably the best quarterback in Class 5A, but David is now in his second year as Kaneland’s starter and is a Division I prospect himself. He has the experience from last year’s run, and the talent to get the Knights a state championship.
This year’s Knights team has experienced the semifinals before. It knows about competing in the rough and tough Class 5A. Kaneland has nearly made it to Champaign the past two seasons. Maybe having been there before will help the Knights get downstate in 2012.
SFlb5. Kaneland owns the trenches
When watching a game, you’ll notice David has all the time in the world to throw. You’ll see huge holes Kaneland’s running backs get to run through.
Defensively, the Knights have done a good job shutting down the opposition, and it all starts up front. Whenever an opposing running back gets the ball, it always seems like there’s a swarm of defenders around on the line of scrimmage. Jaumaureo Phillips, Bradley Johnson and Justin Diddell are just a few key contributors on the defensive line. Linebacker Gary Koehring consistently makes plays, as well.