Conference chase complete
Photo: Dylan Nauert chases Morris QB Austin Feeney during Kaneland’s 31-28 victory. Kaneland’s 9-0 mark brings forth a conference title and a date with visiting Belvidere on Friday, Oct. 28. Photo by John DiDonna
Early lead holds up for NIB-12 East champs in 31-28 win in Morris
by Mike Slodki
MORRIS—All that stood between a second consecutive Northern Illinois Big XII East division championship for undefeated Kaneland was fellow undefeated juggernaut Morris.
On Friday in Grundy County, only one undefeated football outfit stood tall: the Knights.
Storming out to a 24-0 halftime lead in a first half that saw the Redskins gather just 30 yards, the Knights clung to the lead after Morris scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
But an emphasis on the run and two key interceptions had the Knights emerge the 31-28 victor.
The Knights finished the 2011 regular season campaign with a 9-0 mark and a 5-0 NIB-12 slate, cinching their second straight conference crown and the No. 1 overall team on the IHSA Playoff Points scale in Class 5A.
“It’s huge, and I’m so proud of our kids,” KHS coach Tom Fedderly said. “Coming into the season and losing all the kids that we had, we didn’t know what we had, but we knew we had a lot of talent.”
Morris finished 8-1 with a 4-1 mark in NIB-12 play.
Kaneland continues to roll on the Maple Park grass, finshing their second straight undefeated season.
The Knights have now won 19 regular season games in a row, and 22 of their last 25 contests in regular and post season.
Kaneland found out Saturday that with the No. 1 seed, it’ll host 16th-seeded Belvidere High School on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. at Peterson Field.
Morris, meanwhile, hosts Morton High School on the same night in the upper half of the 5A bracket.
In sophomore action, Morris defeated Kaneland by a 12-6 final.
The varsity Knights outgained the host Redkins by a 328-288 margin, while being almost even in passing yardage, 232-219.
KHS quarterback Drew David was 16-for-32 on the day, with four TD throws, while counterpart Austin Feeney was 20-for-30 for 219 yards and three touchdowns, but had four picks.
David also rushed for a game-high 54 yards.
Sean Carter had 161 yards on five catches, and three touchdowns to go along with an interception.
“We knew Morris was a good team,” Carter said. “They are a hard-hitting team, but once we had that first quarter, we just got on a roll.”
Morris struggled to get things going in a friendly atmosphere, and Kaneland’s second drive yielded a 22-yard field goal by kicker Matt Rodriguez for a 3-0 edge.
One of the most significant halves of football for Kaneland this season continued in the second quarter and led to three touchdowns. David found Zack Martinelli for 13 yards, as well as Carter from 53 and 3 yards out, to take a 24-0 lead by the end of the half.
Morris finally got into the contest and on the board when on the opening drive of the second half, the Redskins drove 77 yards in 16 plays. Anthonee Monson caught a fourth-down, 19-yard TD pass with 4:10 to go to make it 24-7.
Morris amped up the attack and scored on its next drive, thanks to Feeney’s six-yard touchdown with 9:51 remaining to make it 31-21.
Kaneland struck again when Carter caught a 63-yard TD pass to end a four-play drive with 7:39 remaining to make it 31-14.
Morris answered three plays later when Feeney found Jake Ruettiger for a 33-yard touchdown to set matters at 31-21 with 6:37 to go.
Blake Bradford came up with a key interception after Morris recovered an onside kick, but KHS was forced to punt. Morris closed out the scoring with 2:18 to go on a 20-yard TD pass to Danny Friend.
Knight Jake Razo recovered the Redskin onside kick attempt, leading to a drive that saw David lose the ball on the grass, but the officiating crew ruled him down before the fumble.
A couple of additional runs set the result in stone and a jovial Kaneland crew celebrated, for one week anyway.
The playoff landscape is plentiful for the Northern Illinois Big XII this weekend, as Rochelle and Sycamore have action this weekend.
The Hubs, as a 13th seed, travel to Gately Stadium in Chicago to face Urban Prep Charter on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 4 p.m.
12th-seeded Sycamore plays at Lane Stadium in Chicago at the same time against King High School, the Knights’ first-round opponent a year ago.
The winner of the KHS-Belvidere clash is slated to face either (8) St. Francis of Wheaton, or (9) Burlington Central.