Sterling capitalizes on Kaneland's mistakes
Kaneland found out why the highly touted Sterling defense allowed just 59 points in its first 10 games.
The No. 2 seeded Golden Warriors forced five turnovers and returned three of them for touchdowns as they rolled to a 46-20 victory over the Knights in Saturday night's Class 5A second round playoff game in Maple Park.
Sterling (11-0) will travel to face No. 14 seed Marian in the quarterfinals while Kaneland (7-4) saw its impressive five-game winning streak come to an end.
"The turnovers killed us. Our offense just made too many mistakes," said Knights senior wide receiver and defensive back Alex Moses, who was one of the bright spots with 8 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
"We challenged our back half and schematically they executed the game plan perfectly," said Sterling coach Jonathan Schlemmer, as his secondary collected four interceptions, including a pair of pick sixes. "Our kids are just ball hawks and they love to play."
Sterling seized control from the outset as senior Nyrel Sullivan, who rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries, raced 37 yards around left end for a score on the opening drive of the game.
Alek Duran picked off Jack Douglas on the Knights' first offensive play then snared a 12-yard touchdown from Trey Morse for a 13-0 lead with 7:08 left in the opening quarter.
Kaneland got back within 13-6 as Douglas followed an 18-yard completion to Moses on 3rd-and-8 with a with a 43-yard touchdown run.
The momentum was short-lived as the Golden Warriors needed only three plays to answer. A pair of long completions covered 63 yards before Sullivan plunged in from two yards out.
Marquez Williams followed with a 53-yard fumble return for a score to extend Sterling's halftime advantage to 25-6.
The lights at Peterson Field went out at halftime and the lights went out on the Knights' chances for a comeback as Williams intercepted Douglas on the first play of the third quarter and returned it 35 yards for a score.
The Knights were on the move after Drew Hahn recovered a Sterling fumble, but disaster struck on 4th-and-5 from the Sterling 6 as Isaiah Ryan took an interception back 102 yards.
After Turner Garcia came up with the Golden Knights' fourth pick of the game, Williams added a 9-yard touchdown run to add to his pair of defensive scores.
"He had a good game, didn't he," Schlemmer chucked.
"They took advantage of our mistakes, that's for sure. Credit to them, they're a good football team and I'm sure they'll go a long way," credited Knights coach Pat Ryan.
With a running clock in the fourth quarter, Trevor Jones scored on an 18-yard run and Moses hauled in a 7-yard touchdown for the Knights.
Although the stats were skewed by the turnovers and running clock, Kaneland outgained Sterling 403-241 and forced the Golden Warriors to punt five times.
"I'm very proud of how our defense played," Ryan said. "Sullivan is one of the best backs in the state and after that big run early on I felt we held him in check."