JOLIET – Dealing with Michael Ivlow and Joliet Catholic was going to be difficult enough.
Doing so with multiple key injuries made Saturday night's showdown between Kaneland and Joliet Catholic a one-sided affair, as the Hilltoppers battered the Knights, 45-8, in an IHSA Class 5A second-round football playoff game at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Already playing without starting receiver Brandon Bishop – who was injured last week against Hampshire – the Knights lost three-year starting quarterback Drew David and offensive lineman/linebacker Sam Bower during the course of the first half. That doesn't even take into account season-ending ACL injuries to star running back Jesse Balluff and starting lineman Zach Thielk earlier this season.
"Unfortunately, when it rained it poured with the injuries," Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said. "With Bishop not being able to play, and then Drew and Bower. "Hats off to [Joliet Catholic], they did a really nice job, but I can't say enough about my seniors. We love them, and I can't say enough about them."
With David in the game for the first quarter-plus, the Knights moved the ball into Joliet Catholic territory on three occasions. The results: a turnovers on downs, a punt and a missed field goal. Ivlow, meanwhile, had four rushing touchdowns in the first half as JCA led, 28-0, at the break. That included TD runs of 80 and 67 yards. He ran for 218 of his 222 yards in the first half while teammate Nick Borgra rushed for 141 yards on the night as the Hilltoppers clicked in their patented double-wing offense.
"It's funny because we're more of a running team, and we seem to have the big plays in our running game," JCA coach Dan Sharp said. Senior Ty Carlson came on at quarterback to replace David, who Fedderly said sustained a rib injury while taking a hit after a run early in the second quarter. Carlson completed 10 of 18 passes and led the Knights on a drive that ended with a 3-yard Nate Dyer touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but by then, the running clock was in effect.
"I feel like turf is kind of a nightmare for us," Dyer said. "That tends to be the playing field that we get hurt on. But that's what we strived for all year, get the second man in and keep playing hard."
Dyer said the Knights knew they faced a whopping challenge in a Joliet Catholic team that only has lost once this season, a one-point defeat to 7A playoff team St. Patrick.
"We expected them to be a tough team. We expected them to make plays," Dyer said. "You get sealed off the edge. We made some plays, they made more plays."
The loss bounces the Knights (9-2) from the 5A playoffs in the second round for the second straight season after consecutive state semifinal berths the two years prior. Sharp was proud of his team's play but felt badly about Kaneland going down without its leader for most of the night.
"He is one of the better athletes we've seen this year, just watching them on film and seeing them live last week," Sharp said of David. "It was a shame that happened but that definitely I think took the wind out of their sails a little bit, losing a player of that caliber."
Joliet Catholic didn't complete a pass all night but out-rushed Kaneland, 391-88. The Hilltoppers move on to a heavyweight quarterfinal next week at Montini.