Kaneland in brief
Conference: Kishwaukee River / Interstate 8 (White)
Coach: Pat Ryan (27-16, fifth season)
Record 2021: 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 fast, play-making receivers like Aric Johnson. But he threw for 2,790 yards last year as a sophomore with 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions, earning all-conference and all-state honors. With another year of experience under his belt and a line he and Ryan say is much improved over last year, the potential is high for Carllon.
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, father, DB
Kaneland in pictures
The big idea: can more experience translate into more wins?
Last year, the Knights had 11 new defensive starters, only four of whom graduated. And while the offensive line contains plenty of novelties, returns abound in the running and passing games.
Ryan said he thinks the team has improved a lot defensively and thinks the Knights will be just as strong on offense as they were a year ago.
Here’s what Ryan and the players say about the improvement in the squad and the role that more experience has played in that:
“We have definitely improved from last summer. We have a lot of young kids coming back, juniors and seniors. We look really good as a team. Our line has improved a lot from last year, we have new fullbacks in the backfield. We look like we can run the ball more and our defense looks really solid.
“I think it’s a lot better than last year, since last year we were so young. A lot of guys have improved since then. We haven’t lost many seniors either.
“I think we have the ability to be a two-dimensional attack. I think everyone expects us to throw the ball, but I think we can also run the ball effectively. They are 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 running game.
What else do they say
* Ryan in defense:
“We were playing a group of sophomores on this defense last year. Now these children are much more mature.
* Lilly on the defensive:
“As the saying goes, day after day. And I think we really did that because we have so many guys coming back and we’ve only gotten better since then.
* Carlson in attack:
“I do the easy part: I put the ball in their hands and they do the rest. It’s good to have these people around you. Makes my job much easier above all. They’re great football players – throw them a little pass and they’ll bring it home.
* Ryan on the progress of the team:
“I feel like we’ve improved a lot from where we were a year ago. Even at the start of the summer, we were growing a lot as a team. We are much more mature as a football team this year. I have seen good progress. I’m excited on both sides of the ball.
* Ryan on offense:
“I think it’s about being able to protect the football and control the clock. We have the ability to score quickly, but more importantly can we control the lockdown and protect the football, not turn it over.
* Ryan on the line:
“Everyone talks about our talented players. But if our line can’t protect them and make holes, then it doesn’t matter.
All games at 7 p.m., unless otherwise specified; an asterisk denotes conference games
|August 26||against Tinley Park|
|September 2||against Geneva|
|September 9||at Morris*|
|September 16||against Woodstock*|
|September 23||in Ottawa*|
|September 30||vs plane tree*|
|October 7||in Marengo|
|October 14||at Woodstock North*|
|21st of October||vs La Salle-Peru*|
High-level games were commonplace for the Knights last year, averaging 35 points per game but allowing almost 32. Offense potential is very high this year, so if the defense can turn things around, the Knights will be a force after taking third place in the conference and only earning a playoff berth in Week 9 last year.
Ruchaj had a few starts in the backfield last year, and Ryan said Tyler Bradshaw and Josh Mauthe join him there for some depth. The line is the biggest question mark, but Ryan said he feels the group, which includes new starters Robert Warfel, Nick Alstott and Christian Morgan, is really coming together.
And defensively, Ryan said, the team is much faster. The secondary should be a force, with a bunch of two-way starters providing some depth behind guys like Alex Panico and Anthony Urban.