Solid effort for Kaneland in win at Morris
After giving up big plays against DeKalb and Sycamore the last two weeks, the Kaneland defense turned the tables in Friday night's crucial Northern Illinois Big 12 East contest at Morris.
Morris racked up 150 yards and led 7-0 after its first two drives, but the Knights forced four turnovers and netted a safety as they dominated the rest of the way to come away with a convincing 23-7 victory.
The key play happened in the final minute of the third quarter with Kaneland holding a 14-7 lead. Jacob Brown forced Morris backup quarterback Ricky DelFavero to fumble inside his own 20 and senior Austin Vickery scooped up the loose ball and raced into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
"I think it was the first time I ever saw the ball on the ground," Vickery said. "I just did what I was taught by the coaches, picked it up and scored. It was so amazing and I'm so glad that we got the win."
"I thought our defense just played a great game," said Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly. "They saved us tonight and kept us right in it. I'm really proud after the last couple of games to see that side of the ball step up they way they did."
Kaneland (4-3, 2-2) got off to a rough start as Jake Marczuk was intercepted in the red zone after a promising drive, then Mike Feeney ripped off a 44-yard run on the Redskins' first play. Four plays later, Morris quarterback Nathan Guth fumbled, but Tommy Balentine recovered the bouncing ball in stride and took it the final 35 yards for a Redskins touchdown.
Both teams traded short field goal misses, but Matthew Redman put the Knights back in business with an interception and 28-yard return down to the Morris 22. On 3rd-and-11, Marczuk hit Tanner Robertsen on a screen pass and Robertsen evaded two defenders on his way down the left sideline for the tying score with 5:19 left in the half.
The Kaneland defense rose up again with a pair of stops, setting up the offense at the Morris 39 with 1:28 left in the half. Marczuk executed a beautiful pump fake and hit Robertsen deep down the left sideline with a 38-yard gain down to the 1, and Jonathan Alstott plunged in over the left side with 24 seconds left for a 14-7 halftime lead.
"There were a lot of crazy bounces tonight and that always seems to happen against Morris, but I'm really pleased that we were able to overcome a rough start," Fedderly said. "Getting that score at the end of the half was big momentum."
Isaiah Baerenklau notched in an interception on the Redskins' opening drive of the second half, then the Knights held Morris on downs after a promising six minute drive. After Vickery's touchdown, the Knights sacked Guth and forced a fumble in the end zone, with the Redskins recovering for a Knights' safety and 23-7 lead with 10:42 remaining. Tyler Paulson sealed the win with another interception with 7:43 left. "We just did our jobs on defense tonight and that's why we succeeded as a team," Vickery said.
Marczuk finished with 89 yards rushing on 17 carries against a stingy Morris run defense and threw for 186 yards with a pair of interceptions. Robertsen hauled in 8 catches for 145 yards while Mitchel Groen had two receptions for 22 yards.
"Morris is always really tough to run on," Fedderly said. "We came in thinking we had to do both, but Tanner really stepped up for us in the passing game."
Morris (3-4, 0-3) rushed for 184 yards on 45 attempts, but went 7-for-19 passing combined for just 70 yards to go along with the three interceptions.