Illinois High School Football News

High-powered offenses to duke it out Friday as Kaneland, Sycamore clash

The Sycamore defense wraps up Rochelle's Erich Metzger during their game Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Rochelle High School.

Kaneland defensive back Alex Panico said the defensive strategy for the Knights is pretty straightforward – stop the run and don’t get beat deep.

On Friday, that strategy will be put to the test against a potent Sycamore offense that has had lots of success running the ball and beating teams deep.

“It’s kind of been our motto ever since the Geneva game [a 38-14 loss in Week 2], stop the run and don’t get beat deep,” Panico said. “If we can do that, we feel pretty good about the outcome.”

Sycamore (5-0 overall, 2-0 Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 White) ran for 166 yards last week against Rochelle on 17 carries, and Eli Meier threw for 147 yards. Seven of his eight competitions went to Burke Gautcher, who not only has been handling short out patterns but deep bombs as well this season for the Spartans.

“Obviously, it gives us an over-the-top threat,” Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said. “Any level, you’re talking NFL, NCAA, high school, if you’ve got a guy who can take the top off, that’s worrisome to a defensive coordinator. They have to be careful how they bring guys down in the run game or how they rotate their coverage.”

Kaneland (3-2, 2-1) has been effective deep this season as well behind quarterback Troyer Carlson. He threw for 193 yards last week, with five of his 10 passes going to Aric Johnson, who had 137 receiving yards and two scores.

Tyler Bradshaw ran for four touchdowns last week as well.

“We just have to get a push on our O-line and know what we’re doing on our plays,” Bradshaw said. “They’re just big up fron, and their linebackers press the line of scrimmage really hard. We need our line to get a push, so we can get some yards.”

Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said he likes the improvement his defense has shown this year. He said the run game isn’t giving up nearly as many big plays as it did a year ago, and the secondary has been solid as well.

“If a team is going to score on us we want them to really earn it,” Pat Ryan said. “I think that’s going to be a big thing for us. Don’t get beat deep. ... We just have to play fundamentally sound defense. I think we have as good a defensive secondary as anyone. We just have to be disciplined in our approach and the way we play against the pass.”

Sycamore hasn’t been tested much this season, and safety Dawson Alexander said he’s looking forward to this year’s battle against the Knights.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Alexander said. “Kaneland is a very good passing team, so we’re ready for the challenge, ready to step up.”

Sycamore has won the past four games in the series, with Kaneland’s last win coming in 2018.

“It’s going to mean a lot [if Kaneland gets the win],” Bradshaw said. “We’ve been going head-to-head with them for a couple years. It’s going to mean a lot if we win this game.