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No. 30 resonates in Kaneland win

MAPLE PARK – The 30th straight regular season win for the Kaneland football program, dating to the end of the 2009 season, came relatively easily for the Knights.

Kaneland’s jersey No. 30 had plenty to do with that. Senior running back Jesse Balluff rushed for the Knights’ first three touchdowns of the night Friday en route to a banner outing in Kaneland’s 45-14 win against Immaculate Conception. Balluff finished the night with 182 yards on 16 carries, inflicting most of that damage early as Kaneland seized complete command. Balluff credited Kaneland’s vaunted offensive line – right tackle Justin Diddell, right guard Alex Snyder, center Zach Thielk, left guard Shane Jorgensen and left tackle Joe Komel – for emboldening coach Tom Fedderly to set the tone on the ground.

“We just love running this year,” Balluff said. “We have a huge line that just is dominant. Anyone can run behind them and get touchdowns. Seriously. It’s amazing.”

Balluff scored on runs of 20, 35 and 1 yard in the opening half as Kaneland claimed a 31-7 lead by the break. Also included on Kaneland’s lengthy first-half highlight reel were a 38-yard Matt Rodriguez field goal and a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Cole Carlson.

Kaneland (2-0) ran the ball on all nine plays of its opening, 75-yard drive.

“We thought we had that advantage up front so we were just going to keep running the ball until they stopped it,” Fedderly said.

The Knights’ defense held IC Catholic to negative yardage on the ground in the first half despite playing without usual starting middle linebacker Gary Koehring, who was out with a minor injury. The host Knights weren’t easy to deal with when IC’s quarterback duo of Jack Copher or Rhashaun Epting dropped back to pass, either, as linebacker Sam Bower and Diddell each notched sacks in the late stages of the second quarter.

“Man, those guys have fun playing over there,” Fedderly said of his defense. “Those kids just fly around the ball and they play really good, sound, team defense. They play well, they communicate together and they hustle. It’s fun to watch those kids.”

Kaneland senior quarterback Drew David went 10 for 16 for 169 yards and threw no interceptions a week after tossing three. He was replaced after the third quarter with his team cruising, 45-7.

Kaneland senior Dylan Nauert had a pair of touchdown runs in the second half and also had a crowd-pleasing punt return for a TD called back.

Fedderly said he thought Kaneland played a strong first half in last week’s season-opening win against Brooks before finishing the game in sloppy fashion. That wasn’t the case this time as Kaneland never gave IC Catholic an opening, allowing the reserves to see ample time down the stretch.

This year’s team has only contributed two wins toward that 30-game total, though there are numerous holdovers who have been a part of many more. Balluff called the streak “amazing.”

“We take pride on just winning games,” he said. “You see on the back of the press box, ‘A Winning Tradiiton,’ and that’s what we pride ourselves on.”

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