Kaneland runs past Rochelle, into playoffs
ROCHELLE -- From the opening kickoff there was no doubt Kaneland was a team on a mission.
Receiving against a stiff wind, the Knights went for and converted three fourth downs against the Rochelle defense on a methodical 15-play drive, capped by quarterback Jake Marczuk's 2-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
Kaneland faced little resistance after that, dominating on both sides of the ball to secure its sixth win and a playoff berth with a 41-7 Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover victory over the Hubs.
"I thought those were manageable distances to go for it and the kids did a great job executing," said Knights coach Tom Fedderly. "With the elements and going into that wind, it was definitely a big drive for us."
"For coach to give us those opportunities to get a first down or to score gave us confidence that we were going to be successful in the long run," said Kaneland senior wide receiver Tanner Robertsen, who caught 4 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
"We were clicking on all cylinders tonight and I thought this was a great showing going into the playoffs."
For the third consecutive week, the Knights defense rose to the occasion. They allowed under 200 total yards and collected two turnovers.
Kaneland (6-3) forced a three-and-out on Rochelle's first drive, leading to Marczuk's 40-yard touchdown run and a 13-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter.
Rochelle (3-6) drove inside the Knights' 10 on its next possession behind the tough running of fullback Jarod Scarbrough, who gained 132 yards on 21 carries. However, Steven Van Horn thwarted the drive with an interception on fourth-and-goal.
Going with the wind, Marczuk hit Robertsen with a 38-yard pass down the right sideline, then launched a perfect 50-yard strike to Robertsen down the middle for a score and a 20-0 lead.
"I saw green grass and I just caught the ball and made sure no one was around me," Robertsen said. "It was another big play for us to build on."
Knights senior lineman Andrew Kray kept the momentum going as his sack and forced fumble on Rochelle quarterback Chayce Sullivan was recovered by linebacker Jacob Urban on the Hubs' 43.
Three plays later, Marczuk connected with Mitchel Groen on a 8-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 27-0 at halftime.
"I thought this was the best first half we've played all year," Fedderly said.
Marczuk, who finished with 137 yards rushing and 175 passing, added second half scoring runs of 4 and 30 yards to set up a running clock for the entire fourth quarter.
Jonathan Alstott added 60 yards rushing on 10 carries while Groen had 5 receptions for 50 yards.
Awaiting their opening round playoff opponent, the Knights will go in riding a three-game winning streak.
"I'm really happy with how we're playing on defense," Fedderly said. "We also looked sharp on offense tonight, so on both sides of the ball we have some momentum going into the playoffs."