MARENGO – Kaneland had a really good idea of what its team would look like if it put all three phases of the game together.
On Oct. 7 at Marengo, the Knights saw it all come together as they featured a balanced offense, a stingy defensive effort and a spark from their special teams in a 44-3 Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8 crossover victory.
The Knights wasted little time putting points on the board.
On their first play from scrimmage, running back Chris Ruchaj took the handoff, broke the run to the sideline and raced 73 yards to give the Knights a quick 7-0 lead. On their next possession, Ruchaj answered the call again, finishing a five-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown run.
“We really emphasized coming out in the first quarter and starting fast,” Ruchaj said. “Our offensive line has been getting better every game and as an offense we’ll continue to improve each week.”
Knights quarterback Troyer Carlson had a strong first half. Carlson hit wide receiver Aric Johnson in stride in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown pass and then connected with Dominick DeBlasio for a 13-yard touchdown pass on Kaneland’s next possession, helping put the Knights ahead 37-3 at halftime.
Ruchaj, who added a third touchdown run in the third quarter, finished with 151 yards on 11 carries. Carlson was 11-of-13 passing for 146 yards. Johnson led the Knights in receiving with 80 yards on five catches.
“We feel really good where we are at right now on offense. Our goal is to get better every week and we did that tonight,” Carlson said.
The special teams contributed a touchdown for Kaneland as Alexander Panico returned a punt 53 yards for a score.
Kaneland’s defense was stout from start to finish. Johnny Spallasso and Sebastian Chavez each had an interception, Nicklaus McNamara had a sack and the Knights held Marengo to 132 total yards.
“We simplified some things and that allowed our kids to play faster tonight,” Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. “I thought we played really well. We struggled with some things last week, but there was a lot of improvement tonight.”
It was an uphill battle from the beginning of the game for Marengo. Josh Holst, the Indians’ leading passer and rusher, missed the game because of injury. His absence was definitely felt.
“He’s our offense, that’s no secret,” Marengo coach Paul Forsythe said. “As he goes, we go, and hopefully we’ll get some of the injured guys back next week.”
Senior running back Joe Liebrandt led Marengo in rushing with 65 yards on 16 carries. Drew Johnson ran three times for 27 yards. Mason Lampe and David Lopez shared the quarterback duties in Holst’s absence. Lopez was 5-of-9 passing for 43 yards.
Marengo kicker Alten Bergbreiter booted a 22-yard field goal.
“I wish we would have come out with a little more intensity, but our guys never lack effort and we’re learning to overcome adversity,” Forsythe said.