MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland football team was able to overcome the loss of one of the main cogs of its offensive machine Friday night, trouncing winless Streator, 42-0, and showcasing their depth in the process.
It was confirmed late Thursday that team captain and feature running back Jesse Balluff tore his ACL in the game against Sterling last week, ending his season and leaving the Knights short a key leader.
Despite an emotional week of practice, Kaneland (4-0) was able to rally around the adversity and use it as motivation in a Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover.
“It was a real emotional thing because Jesse’s such a big part of the team,” coach Tom Fedderly said. “It was the first time in three years that the kid hasn’t come out and played with us.”
Senior quarterback and fellow captain Drew David echoed Fedderly’s outlook in the evaluation of the loss of his teammate.
“For all the seniors and even the juniors, we’ve been playing together for so long and he’s been such a big part of the team, we knew we had no choice but to rally around him,” David said. “We had to rally around. Everyone just stepped up and made big plays.”
Big plays were the mantra for David against a Streator defense that looked overmatched by a Kaneland attack that combined a speedy perimeter game with a solid offensive front. David was involved on every score the Knights had, throwing for five touchdowns and scampering for a 16-yard rushing touchdown.
Senior receiver Josh Pruett was on the receiving end of three of David’s TD passes, including the first score of the game on a lunging catch in which Pruett had to use adept footwork to keep his feet in bounds.
“He looked good to me,” Fedderly said of the 6-foot-3 Pruett. “He’s a big track kid. He’s got some speed.”
The Kaneland defense did not allow any scoring behind the high-energy performance of Gary Koehring, whose sideline-to-sideline play kept Streator in check. Linebacker Cole Carlson added a key interception in the second quarter inside the Knights’ 30-yard line to put an end to a steady drive led by Streator quarterback Caleb Spears.
Junior Isaac Swithers and senior Nate Dyer stepped up to fill the void left by Balluff, adding several key running plays to complement Kaneland’s pass-heavy spread offense.
“I think we were able basically to do what we would have done if [Balluff] was in there,” David said.