2014 Football Preview: Helmet to helmet
Photo: Senior Connor Fedderly will return as receiver and be a leader in the squad. Photos by Patti Wilk
Knights look to replace previous talented class on gridiron
KANELAND—Knight names that had heavy contributions the past three seasons for a squad that advanced to a 5A semifinal and two second-round appearances are many.
Names like David, Balluff, Pruett, Bishop, Carlson, Dyer, Nauert, Koehring, Komel, Diddell and Snyder provided big moments against noteworthy rivals.
New names must be added to the cast in order for this season to be a similar success in Maple Park.
That’s a challenge that is just fine with head coach Tom Fedderly, now in his eighth year.
“It’s the same thing, I’ve been here 23 years, and been through the routine. When Camaliere and Serpa left, people didn’t know what (kind of) year we would have, and who knows. We’re getting them ready,” Fedderly said.
A key for the Knights, coming off a 9-2 season after an opening round win over Hampshire and second-round loss to Joliet Catholic last November, is to copy the intangibles imprinted by the departed crew—the same group that helped launch a 35-game regular season win streak dating back to 2009, stopped by Sycamore in October 2013.
“They’ve gone through the system. We just want these guys to be themselves and play hard. If they do that, things are going to work out,” Fedderly said.
Taking snaps under center for the famed spread offense is junior athlete Jake Marczuk, a new varsity addition.
“He’s a really good athlete and can run, and he’s about the same size of Drew and Joe, so we’ll see how he does,” Fedderly said.
Isaac Swithers, who took a portion of the carries after Balluff went down with a knee injury vs. Sterling, figures to carry the load in 2014.
Catching passes will be Connor Fedderly, Tyler Paulson, Kevin Fuchs and Mitch Groen.
“We’ve got a group of receivers that are pretty good and pretty quick after Connor and Tyler,” Fedderly said. “Connor is a leader, and has been with us for three years and knows the role of a senior leader now.”
Many a game has been won in the trenches, but with a talented group mostly departed, new personnel will get a chance at a starting gig for the Knights.
Danny Hammermeister, Zach Thielk and Jake Gomes help anchor the O-line, with some two-way play forecasted with a rotation. Linebackers include Hammermeister, with Swithers playing secondary along with Kyle Diehl.
With Matt Rodriguez gone, it’s up to Drew Franklin to boom kicks into the stratosphere and at least give Kaneland a leg up on defense and field goals.
“He’s a soccer kid, and he’s kicking well. He has a real strong leg and should be pretty good,” Fedderly said.
With a slightly modified schedule compared to years past, which includes three non-conference games and two crossover games sandwiching the Northern Illinois Big XII East division slate, it’s paramount that the Knights are as solid a unit as possible.
“Turnovers are probably the biggest thing and penalties offensively are so hard to overcome, so that’s what we’re stressing, and hopefully it takes care of itself,” Fedderly said.
Projected to be solid as a conference can be, the new five-team East looks to be tight, with DeKalb, Sycamore and Yorkville all returning from playoff years.
“It’s going to be business as usual with a number of teams having good years, and anyone can beat you,” Fedderly said.
Kaneland kicks off at home against Chicago’s Brooks Prep on Friday, Aug. 29. The season opener last year was postponed 24 hours due to rain.