MAPLE PARK – Dylan Nauert and the Kaneland football team left no doubt the Knights are ready for another eventful ride in the Class 5A playoffs.
Nauert plucked a trio of interceptions, part of a sparkling, all-around performance for top-seeded Kaneland in a 48-0, first-round thrashing of Belvidere on Saturday night.
"I've been studying all week, we've been studying their pass plays, [the coaches] have been preaching to read their breaks, read his feet, you can tell where they're going to go," Nauert said. "I saw the slant, I saw the out, I just broke on the ball, and it happened to be right there."
Kaneland (10-0) advances to a second-round game at Lincoln-Way West, which blanked Rochelle, 35-0, on Friday. Knights coach Tom Fedderly said he expects it to be a Saturday game.
Fedderly said Kaneland coaches had "some sleepless nights" digesting last year's first-round meeting with the Bucs, a wild, 51-45 Kaneland triumph. But while Belvidere (5-5) returned some key offensive pieces from that meeting – including senior quarterback Troy Vandenbroek and standout receiver Kane Steger – the Bucs' offense was overwhelmed this time by a bigger, brawnier Kaneland defensive line and a ball-hawking secondary.
Vandenbroek, the Bucs' starting QB since midway through his freshman year, was 11-for-25 passing for 58 yards and three interceptions before departing during the fourth quarter.
"He's a kid that just tries to make things happen, which he was trying to do tonight," Bucs coach Matt Weckler said. "He was a big part of our program the last four years. He did the best he could tonight I guess, but hat's off to Kaneland's defense."
Offensively, Kaneland featured junior running back Jesse Balluff taking direct snaps out of the Wildcat formation early in the game, including a 41-yard scamper for the Knights' first touchdown less than 90 seconds in. Balluff added another 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line a few minutes later as the Knights moved ahead, 14-0.
Balluff (17 carries, 111 rushing yards) thinks the Wildcat, which Kaneland has tinkered with in recent weeks, could remain a component of the Knights' offense as the playoffs move forward.
"I think Fedderly likes it, I really like it of course, and it's a lot of fun for the line, too," Balluff said.
Kaneland's lead ballooned to 27-0 in the second quarter thanks to a Drew David quarterback sneak for a touchdown and a pair of Matt Rodriguez field goals.
After Kaneland's defense forced a Belvidere three-and-out to begin the third quarter, David hooked up with senior receiver Kyle Pollastrini for a 56-yard TD pass to make it 34-0.
The running clock came into play with 3:10 left in the third quarter on fullback Nate Dyer's 1-yard score on another fourth-and-goal from the 1 scenario.
Kaneland's defense notched five takeaways on the night. In addition to Nauert's three picks, senior linebacker Blake Bradford recovered a first quarter fumble and senior defensive back Tanner Andrews reeled in an acrobatic interception in the fourth quarter.
Kaneland 48, Belvidere 0
Belvidere 0 0 0 0 - 0
Kaneland 14 13 14 7 - 48
K - Balluff 41 run (Rodriguez kick), 10:39
K - Balluff 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 8:37
K - David 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 10:43
K - Rodriguez 35 FG, 3:18
K - Rodriguez 24 FG, 1:30
K - Pollastrini 56 pass from David (Rodriguez kick), 10:49
K - Dyer 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 3:10
K - Carlson 30 run (Rodriguez kick), 5:12
RUSHING - Belvidere: Vandenbroek 4-10, Jackson 5-6, Munoz 1-3, Fondrk 1-1, Hearn 1-minus 1, Johnson 1-minus 2. Total 13-17. Kaneland: Balluff 17-110, T. Carlson 4-41, Dyer 8-37, Swithers 5-19, David 8-7, Pruett 1-2. Total: 43-216
PASSING - Belvidere: Vandenbroek 10-25-3-50, Jackson 1-1-0-6, Hyser 0-2-1-0. Total 11-28-4-56. Kaneland: David 8-17-1-128
RECEIVING - Belvidere: Jackson 5-5, Frazier 1-40, Steger 1-10, McGady 1-6, I. Carlson 1-5, Hearn 1-0, Munoz 1-minus 10. Kaneland: Martinelli 4-34, Nauert 3-38, Pollastrini 1-56.