Kaneland at a glance
Conference: Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 (White)
Coach: Pat Ryan (27-16, fifth season)
2021 record: 5-5, 4-2; lost, 50-14, to Fenwick in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs
Meet the players
Keep an eye on: Troyer Carlson, jr., QB. A third-year starter, Carlson says he has the easiest job on the field surrounded by speedy, play-making receivers such as Aric Johnson. But he threw for 2,790 yards last year as only a sophomore with 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions, nabbing all-conference and all-state honors. With another year of experience under his belt and a line both he and Ryan are calling much improved from last year, the potential is high for Carslon.
Also: Chris Ruchaj, sr., RB/DB; Austin Lilly, sr., OL/DL; Brett Larson, jr., OL/DL; Aric Johnson, jr., WR/DB; Josh Mauthe, jr., DL/RB; Ryan Algrim, sr., LB; Johnny Spalasso, sr., WR/DB; Alex Panico, sr., DB
Kaneland in photos
The Big Idea: Can more experience translate to more wins?
Last year, the Knights had 11 new defensive starters, of which only four have graduated. And although the offensive line contains a lot of new pieces, returners abound in the run and pass games.
Ryan said he thinks the team is much improved defensively and thinks the Knights will be just as potent as a year ago on offense.
Here’s what Ryan and players are saying about the improvement of the team and the role more experience has played in that:
“We’re definitely improved from last summer. We’ve got a lot of young kids coming back, junior and senior years. We’re looking really good as a team. Our line has improved much from last year, we’ve got some new backs in the backfield. We’re looking like we can run the ball more and our defense is looking really solid.”— Carlson
“I think a lot better than last year, since last year we were so young. Now a lot of guys have improved since then. We didn’t lose that many seniors either.”— Lilly
“I think we have the ability to be a two-dimensional offense. I think everybody is expecting us to throw the ball, but I think we’ll be able to run the ball effectively too. They’re tough, physical runners, and they have good speed. It’s a good combination. We have the ability to break some tackles and they block well too. I think we can have an effective run game.”— Ryan
What else they’re saying
* Ryan on the defense:
“We were playing a bunch of sophomores on that defense last year. Now those kids are a lot more mature.”
* Lilly on the defense:
“Like the saying goes, day by day. And I think we’ve really done that since we have so many guys returning and we’ve only improved since then.”
* Carlson on the offense:
“I do the easy part: I get the ball in their hands, and they do the rest. It’s nice having those people surrounding you. Makes my job a lot easier especially. They’re great football players – throw them a little pass off, and they’ll take it to the house.”
* Ryan on the team’s progression:
“I feel like we’ve improved a lot from where we were a year ago. Even at the beginning of the summer we were growing a lot as a team. We’re much more mature as a football team this year. I’ve seen good progress. I’m excited about both sides of the ball.”
* Ryan on the offense:
“I think it’s about being able to protect the football and control the clock. We have the capability to score quickly but importantly can we control the lock and protect the football, not turn it over.”
* Ryan on the line:
“Everybody talks about our skill players. But if our line can’t protect them and make holes, then it doesn’t matter.”
All games at 7 p.m. unless noted; an asterisk denotes conference games
|August 26||vs. Andrew|
|September 2||vs. Geneva|
|September 9||at Morris*|
|September 16||vs. Woodstock*|
|September 23||at Ottawa*|
|September 30||vs. Sycamore*|
|October 7||at Marengo|
|October 14||at Woodstock North*|
|October 21||vs. La Salle-Peru*|
High-soring games were commonplace for the Knights last year, scoring an average of 35 points per game but allowing almost 32. The potential for the offense is sky high this year, so if the defense can turn it around, the Knights will be a force after taking third in the conference and not earning a playoff spot until Week 9 last year.
Ruchaj had some spot starts in the backfield last year, and Ryan said Tyler Bradshaw and Josh Mauthe join him back there for some depth. The line is the biggest question mark, but Ryan said he feels the group, which features new starters Robert Warfel, Nick Alstott and Christian Morgan, is really coming around.
And defensively, Ryan said, the team is much faster. The secondary should be a strength, with a bunch of two-way starters providing some depth behind guys like Alex Panico and Anthony Urban.