After Kaneland's impressive first half showing Friday night at DeKalb, everything unraveled in a matter of minutes.
The Knights watched their 12-7 halftime lead and swagger evaporate in the blink of an eye as host DeKalb, the No. 3 ranked team in Class 6A, put up 21 points in the first four minutes of the second half and went on to collect a crucial 31-12 Northern Illinois Big XII East victory.
The Barbs (5-0, 2-0) took the second half kickoff and marched 58 yards for a score on four plays to regain the lead. Kaneland's first play of the half proved disastrous as DeKalb's Jahi Craig intercepted a tipped pass and raced 25 yards for another score.
With the Knights' on their heels, Barbs' quarterback Noah Valin followed with a backbreaking 67-yard touchdown scamper to extend the lead to 28-12 with 7:57 left in the third quarter.
"As soon as they scored that first touchdown in the second half, we lost it," said Knights junior linebacker Chaz Shaw, who had an interception and fumble recovery in the first half. "I could see it in guys' eyes that they were really down. We just have to bounce back from that."
"That first half we were as good as anybody, but we just kind of fell apart in the second half," added Knights coach Pat Ryan. "We have to have a little more pride. When bad things happen in a game, we can't shut down."
Kaneland (2-3, 1-1) dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, running 42 plays to DeKalb's 21 while forcing three turnovers. The Knights also outgained the Barbs 169 yards to 130.
DeKalb took a 7-0 first quarter lead on Valin's 54-yard touchdown strike over the middle to Tyrese Dyson, but Chris Angelotti shifted the momentum Kaneland's way by recovering a DeKalb muffed punt at the Barbs' 16.
Jonathan Alstott covered 13 yards on a pair of runs and Trevor Jones scored from 3 yards out, but the Knights missed the extra point.
Shaw's interception stopped a promising DeKalb drive and the Knights put together a stellar 15-play, 82-yard scoring drive.
Sophomore Joe Smith (20-for-31, 182 yards) completed 4 of 5 passes while Jones cashed in on a 10-yard run to give Kaneland a 12-7 lead with 2:30 left.
"They were beating us up front and pushing us around. We were sitting back and taking it," said DeKalb coach Matt Weckler. "At halftime we talked about delivering punches and I think we did that in the second half."
With the Barbs putting constant pressure on Smith in the second half, Kaneland managed just 67 yards of offense and four first downs.
"Joe did fine. I wish we would have protected him a little better," Ryan said.
Max Gagne finished with 4 receptions for 77 yards for Kaneland while Josh Marczuk grabbed 6 passes for 50 yards. Jaylein Hobson and Valin rushed for 132 and 111 yards, respectively, to lead DeKalb.
Despite the loss, the Knights still have high hopes and playoff aspirations, beginning with next week's crucial conference home contest against Sycamore.
"We believe we can do it," Shaw said. "We just need to have a good week of practice here and a good game against Sycamore. Just take it one week at a time."