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The last thing Kaneland wanted to be in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs Saturday at Lincoln-Way West was one-dimensional.
Knights coach Tom Fedderly said before the game the key would be which team does a better job mixing up its offense.
The last thing he wanted to see was an early deficit and a running game that couldn't move the chains, but that's exactly what happened.
Lincoln-Way West jumped on the Knights midway through the first quarter, then unleashed its pass rush the rest of the way. The Warriors built a 31-0 lead, and two Knights touchdowns in the final 2:06 weren't nearly enough to save Kaneland's season in a 31-15 loss.
Kaneland quarterback Drew David, playing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, was sacked 9 times and harassed on almost every other one of his 28 attempts as the No. 1 seeded Knights saw their season end at 10-1.
"We got behind so much we had to go our passing game," Fedderly said. "We knew going in we would have to mix things up so they can't just pin their ears back and come after us."
Lincoln-Way West (8-3), which won its fifth straight after a 3-3 start, will play Joliet Catholic in the quarterfinals.
The Warriors held a Kaneland team averaging 42.6 points a game to 0 through the first 58 minutes Saturday. David completed 9 of 28 passes for 80 yards and was intercepted three times before Tyler Carlson threw a touchdown and ran for another in the last two minutes.
"Drew was playing with a broken thumb so all I've got is good things to say about him," Fedderly said. "I can't say enough about Drew hanging in there with a broken thumb the last four weeks. He's got to go get surgery after this. He's a tough kid."
Kaneland had held Lincoln-Way West on its opening possession. But the Warriors were called for a penalty on third down and the Knights decided to take it trying to push them back.
The strategy backfired when the Warriors threw for 19 yards on 3rd-and-17 for a first down at the Knights' 23. Four plays later quarterback Justin Keuch hit Nick Andrade on a 9-yard slant for a 7-0 lead with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The Warriors doubled their lead early in the second quarter when versatile Lavonte Blackful made the first of several game-breaking plays, taking the snap from the Wildcat formation on 4th-and-4 for a 26-yard touchdown run.
"Perfect blocking up front," Blackful said. "We work on that in practice and once we got to the game it was second nature.
"I just wanted to come out and give 100 for my team like I knew they would give 100 for me. It was a team effort. We all came out and played well."
Blackful later intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards, ran a kick back 58 yards, had two punt returns over 25 yards and broke an 82-yard touchdown run to finish with 114 yards rushing on just 4 carries and 306 yards of all-purpose yardage -- well more than the 179 combined by the Kaneland offense.
"Great kid, plays hard, all out all the time," said Warriors coach Dave Ernst, whose team won despite committing 14 penalties for 155 yards. "He always brings a spark."
Joe Leo booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Warriors up 17-0 at halftime. Kaneland had 80 yards of offense at that point to the Warriors' 173, and things went from bad to worse immediately in the second half.
Blackful appeared to catch a booming kickoff from Matt Rodriguez at least a couple yards into the end zone for a touchback. But he ran it out reaching Kaneland's 42, and the officials allowed it.
So instead of holding the Warriors to a 4th-and-4, with the great field position Lincoln-Way went for it on fourth down and converted on its way to an eventual 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake Robbins and 24-0 lead.
The Warriors' defense dominated from there, at one point sacking David four times in a stretch of six plays.
"They are just so fast. and they are relentless," Ernst said. "They just keep coming. They pride themselves on who can get to the quarterback first and who can get shots on people. It's effort. They are a high-energy, high-effort group."
Ernst pulled his starters midway through the fourth quarter. The Knights recovered two fumbles and scored on Carlson's 9-yard pass to Zack Martinelli and Carlson's 4-yard keeper up the middle.
"When you get to this point you never know," Fedderly said. "There's a lot of good teams. We hoped to go farther but we knew this is a good team. Offensively they moved the ball on us, defensively their defensive line got on us. All the credit to them."
Dylan Nuaert caught 7 passes for 68 yards and Martinelli 4 for 44 yards while the Warriors held Jesse Balluff to 28 yards rushing on 7 attempts.
"We didn't underestimate them, we kept fighting, things just didn't go our way," Martinelli said. "It was a rough game for Drew. He kept getting up though. I give him so much credit, he kept battling. He didn't want to stay down, he got up and jogged to the sideline and kept going. He's got a big heart."
Saturday's loss was just Kaneland's third in the last three years. That didn't make it any easier to take for the Class 5A power with its eye on several more November games.
"I'm proud," Martinelli said. "I'm not hanging my head low. It's not like we went 5-4, then got killed by a 1 seed. We were 9-0, we got conference champs. We didn't get our second goal, we wanted to get to Champaign, but things don't always go your way and you learn to accept it and get on with it."
"I'm really proud of my seniors," Fedderly said. "We had a really good run with those kids and they can keep their heads up and be proud of everything they did. A lot of them have only lost 2 games at varsity. There's not a whole lot of people who can say that.
"This one hurts, no doubt about it, but we're pretty proud of our kids."