Scouting the Kaneland Knights
Kaneland will field an experienced team this fall in the final year of the Northern Illinois Big XII East before the Knights move to the Interstate Eight.
Eight starters back on defense form the core in Pat Ryan's second season as Kaneland coach. The Knights went 7-4 in his first year, peaking late in the year starting with a 20-14 win over Morris in Week 7 -- a Morris team that ended up reaching the Class 4A state championship game.
"We got off to a little bit of a shaky start but kind of got on a roll and finished the year real strong," Ryan said. "I'm hoping we can build on that momentum this year and keep that momentum going."
Those returning starters on defense include four-year varsity standout Drew Hahn on the line. Sophomore Sam Pryor also provides strength up front, and Ryan said Luke Brost, Jackson Clark, Alex Slou, Chris Danhauer and transfer Victor Matthews will also rotate and play plenty of snaps on the defensive line.
The linebacking crew looks to be in solid hands with returnees Bryce Cohoon and Chaz Shaw, and the Knights also are experienced in the secondary with all-conference picks Zach Denning and Kyle Angelotti back.
Junior Wilson Giffney, senior Chris Angelotti, junior Jimmy Marczuk and junior Trevor Carlson also will be counted on in the defensive backfield.
"Our kids have a lot of experience and I think they understand what it takes to win and play the game at a high level," Ryan said. "Those kids have made it somewhat easier for us as coaches because they know what we want to do, they know our system."
One key position Kaneland will have a new starter is quarterback. Ryan said junior Joe Smith and senior Connor Buyck have been splitting reps at practice.
"Connor has a tremendous arm, and Joe can also throw a good ball and do some things well with his feet," Ryan said. "It's going to come down to who is not going to turn the ball over and who makes the best decisions as quarterback."
Senior Jonathan Alstott, a four-year varsity starter, returns at running back. He'll also punt.
Shaw and Giffney will join Alstott at running back.
Seniors Hahn and Clark will anchor the line. Pryor, Danhauer, Slou and sophomore John Davis are battling for the other three spots.
Chris Angelotti and junior Max Gagne return at wide receiver. Junior Colton Doll provides another target, as does Brost, the starting tight end.
Junior Andreas Matarangas returns at kicker.
Kaneland has added Hinsdale South to the schedule in Week 1 and draws Sterling -- who knocked the Knights out of the playoffs in the second round last year -- in Week 4.
"This might be the toughest schedule we've had arguably ever," Ryan said. "We know we have nine tough games ahead of us this year. Last time playing Yorkville and DeKalb, some teams we have had some good games with over the years, good rivalries. We want to play well this year in the last time we'll play some of those teams we've played for years. You kind of want to make it special."