Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/1/2013 12:16 AM

Kaneland rolls behind dominating defense

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It didn't take long for Kaneland to let Brooks know their 2013 season opener wasn't going to be anything like 2012.

Dylan Nauert returned the opening kickoff 66 yards, Jesse Balluff scored two first-quarter touchdowns, and the Knights led 23-0 early on their way to a 27-7 victory Saturday night in Maple Park.

That was a far cry from a year ago when the Knights had to rally from a 24-6 third quarter deficit to pull out a 25-24 win.

"We know we got embarrassed last year," senior linebacker Ty Carlson said. "We came out and did our job on the defensive end, and it was a good game."

Kaneland's defense played a near-perfect game, allowing only one late first-half touchdown. A fourth-down pass interference call kept the drive alive to set up a 21-yard touchdown reception that the Knights almost had intercepted but with both players having possession the officials gave Brooks the touchdown.

Other than that Kaneland (1-0) not only held the Eagles (0-1) to 11 first downs and 186 yards of offense, they forced 3 turnovers and scored 4 points themselves with a pair of third-quarter safeties.

In fact, Kaneland won the second half by a baseball-like 4-0 score.

"Our defensive line just got pressure. It was really good work by them," said Carlson who earned praise from coach Tom Fedderly for his play in his first game on the defensive side of the ball.

"It's a really big confidence builder. We're happy to start out 1-0. that's our goal every week."

In winning their 29th straight regular season game, the Knights had a chance to put many more points on the board. Kaneland's offense moved the ball well but squandered several opportunities, committing five turnovers including three interceptions. The Knights also missed two field goals including a 47-yarder just before halftime, and generally didn't play quite as sharp offensively as fans have come to expect during their every growing streak.

"Now we have something on film, we'll take a look and make corrections offensively," Fedderly said. "We know this (Brooks) is a good team, they have good athletes. We knew after that game last year we needed to make some improvements and our defense really came through."

The play started with the work on the line including Sam Bower, Jaumaureo Phillips and sophomore Andrew Kray who along with another sophomore Jake Gomes made impressive debuts. Senior defensive back Grant Wooten intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

Kaneland played the second half without star senior linebacker Gary Koehring (knee) who Fedderly hopes will be fine for next week.

"We were wondering how they (Kray and Gomes) would come out here and react and we were really happy with what we saw," Fedderly said.

After Nauert's long return to start the game, Kaneland's drive stalled setting up Matt Rodriguez for a 25-yard field goal.

Punting was an adventure for Brooks several times, and a bobbled snap led to a 12-yard loss and a short field for Kaneland. Balluff punched in the first of his two scores for a 9-0 lead just 3:06 into the game.

Three minutes later Balluff scored again, this time set up by Drew David coming alive in the passing game. While three interceptions and a fumbled snap in the second half were uncharacteristic for the three-year starter, David also completed 15 of 29 passes on the night for 232 yards and ran for 70 more yards.

David spread his completions around to seven different receivers led by John Pruett with four grabs for 44 yards and Tyler Slamans with 3 catches for 71 yards.

Nate Dyer scored Kaneland's third touchdown on a 1-yard run, and he was part of the Knights' first safety in the third quarter on a 9-yard sack. Minutes later, the Knights completed what would become a rare 4-point half when Kray blocked a punt out of the end zone.

Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDH

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