MAPLE PARK – Kaneland quarterback Drew David romped into the Rochelle secondary when he wasn’t finding open receivers there.
Justin Diddell crashed into Hubs ballcarriers with no sight of a hole.
The second half of the Knights’ 49-20 victory against Rochelle on Friday sure made the first half look misleading. With its stranglehold on the Northern Illinois Big 12 East seemingly in peril in the conference opener, Kaneland responded with a second-half shutout while revving up its offense.
Kaneland stretched its regular-season winning streak to 33 games, a run that includes four victories against Rochelle (4-1, 0-1 NI Big 12 East).
For Rochelle, closing the gap hinged on a handful of factors, namely the offense’s ability to keep the Knights’ vaunted spread attack off the field.
Veteran Hubs coach Kevin Crandall, long a disciple of time-honored, Wing-T football, added a handful of other formations entering the season to maximize the talents of quarterback Angel Burciaga, running back Evan White and fullback Marquez Felix.
Yes, that was Rochelle far downfield in spots Friday, but a week of film study put Kaneland (5-0, 1-0) in position to stop it.
The Knights also heated up on offense, scoring 28 points after halftime.
Playing without left tackle Joe Komel (foot) for the second successive game, a Kaneland running attack already missing running back Jesse Balluff (torn ACL) adjusted behind the rest of its burly front five.
The teams traded 90-plus yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in the first 32 seconds – Kaneland’s Dylan Nauert’s dash preceded White’s – before settling in with separate high-efficiency offenses.
Although the Hubs showed the overflow Peterson Field crowd a few variations on what they’re used to seeing, the Knights’ familiar bravado ultimately prevailed.
Facing the reality of a rare halftime deficit as time wound down on the second quarter, the Knights lined up for a second-down play from their own 34 with seven seconds to play.
Moments earlier, a holding call negated a go-ahead scoring pass from David to Nauert, but even with a timeout remaining and booming kicker Matt Rodriguez practicing on the sideline, the Knights still eyed the end zone.
They got there as time expired on the half, with John Pruett slipping behind the Rochelle secondary and snagging David’s arching pass down the right sideline. The point-after failed, but the Knights had a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.