OTTAWA – The Kaneland Knights got six touchdown passes from Troyer Carlson, 373 passing yards, and a defense that allowed only six rushing yards on 31 Ottawa carries to roll to a 52-26 Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White Division victory Oct. 15.
Kaneland (4-4, 3-2) snapped a two-game losing streak and inched closer to a playoff berth. Ottawa fell to 2-6, 1-5.
“Coming in, we knew we had to win this game,” Carlson said. “Now we have to win [this] week. After losing the past two weeks, we knew we had to come out strong and do our jobs. I knew I had to play good tonight and I feel like I did that.”
Carlson finished 19-of-30 passing with two scoring strikes each to Johnny Spallasso (four catches, 120 yards) and Sam Gagne (four catches, 46 yards), plus a TD each to Aric Johnson (five catches, 135 yards) and Corey Phillips (one catch, 14 yards). Phillips also had 132 yards rushing on 20 carries and a touchdown.
“Our receivers are amazing, and I know if I throw a 50/50 ball that they are going to come down with it,” Carlson said. “Our offensive line did a great job tonight of giving me time and the guys made great catches all night for some big plays.”
Kaneland forced an Ottawa punt on the game’s opening possession, but the Knights lost the ball on downs at the Pirates’ 9. The Pirates were forced to punt again and Gagne returned the ball 36 yards to the Ottawa 19.
On the next play, Gagne made a great leaping catch in the back of the end zone on a pass from Carlson. After the extra-point kick attempt failed, the visitors led 6-0 at the 6:38 mark.
The Pirates were forced to punt for the third time, but a Carlson pass was high and Javarius Whitfield picked it off and returned it 18 yards to the Kaneland 25. On the next play, Pirates quarterback Braiden Miller hit Conner Price for a game-tying score at the 1:17 mark.
Kaneland struck back on a 69-yard pass from Carlson to Spallasso to make it 12-6 at the end of one quarter.
“We knew we had to get things going and stay mistake-free and I think we did that tonight,” Kaneland coach Patrick Ryan said. “Our pass protection was much better than it has been the last couple weeks and we gave Troyer opportunities to throw the ball and our receivers made some good plays. We also, especially in the second half, ran the ball better than we have been.”
Ottawa tied the game on Whitfield’s 1-yard run off right end that completed an eight-play, 55-yard drive that included 14- and 29-yard completions from Miller to Levi Sheehan.
Kaneland countered with a 74-yard pitch and catch from Carlson to Johnson to make it 18-12.
The Knights’ Dawson Trebolo then blocked a Pirates punt and Alex Panico returned the ball 32 yards to make it 24-12.
Ottawa drove from its own 40 to the Kaneland 20 in 14 plays – using nearly six minutes – but a bobbled snap on fourth-and-10 ended the threat with 1:43 before halftime.
The Knights moved the ball to the Ottawa 14 before Carlson hit Phillips on a screen pass for a TD to make it 31-12 with 39 seconds remaining in the half.
Kaneland opened the second half with a 13-yard TD run by Phillips and Carlson’s fifth TD pass of the game and second to Spallasso, this one from 16 yards out, to make it 45-12.
Miller connected with Ryan DeMoss for a 53-yard score to make it 45-19.
Carlson fired his sixth TD pass, this one to Gagne from 22 yards out, to make it 52-19.
Miller connected with Whitfield on a 65-yard pass to finish out the scoring with just over five minutes to play.
Miller led Ottawa with 300 yards passing, including seven catches for 103 yards by Levi Sheehan and 94 yards on three receptions by Whitfield.
“We needed this win,” Ryan said. “We’ve got another step to take [this] week. We are just taking it one week at a time.”
“I thought we started the game very well, scoring early and matching scores with Kaneland,” Ottawa coach Chad Gross said. “We knew how explosive they were. It’s no secret they have speed all over the field, so we knew we’d probably have to match them score for score. We did that until the last six or seven minutes of the first half, but they just kept pouring it on and we didn’t answer.
“We played a solid second half and the kids didn’t quit. But Kaneland’s flurry at the end of the first half and start of the second was something we didn’t respond to.”
Kaneland hosts La Salle-Peru this week. Ottawa is at home against Plano.