Yorkville pulls away from Kaneland in 2nd half
The four unanswered Kaneland touchdowns were suddenly a lost memory.
In a critical Northern Illinois Big XII East Conference football game, the Knights' unblemished league run came to a dramatic halt as Yorkville dominated second-half play in its 45-28 victory.
In securing a playoff bid under Dan McGuire for a first time, the Foxes (6-1, 2-1) created a three-way tie with Kaneland (5-2, 2-1) and DeKalb for first in the East.
Torran Harris' second rushing touchdown of the game gave Yorkville the lead for good, at 31-28, 46 seconds into the fourth quarter.
But it was Yorkville defensive back Jake Polowy who supplied the dagger.
The junior picked off a deflected pass on the Knights' ensuing play from scrimmage and raced 37 yards for the score.
The Knights were in the process of squandering an 18-point first-half lead as Yorkville scored the last 35 points of the game.
The Foxes' three takeaways led to 17 points.
"We talk about it all the time," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "We can't turn the ball over. Any time (a pick-six) happens, it's a huge momentum change. You could feel the energy on the sidelines drop. We made some mistakes on offense that we need to fix."
Kaneland fell in a quick 10-0 hole as turnovers on two of its opening five plays resulted in Harris' first score and a short field goal.
But the Knights forcing Yorkville to settle for 3 points appeared to be a significant development.
"I will take responsibility for that," said McGuire, a West Aurora graduate who bemoaned his own play-calling on the goal line.
In a span of 10 minutes and 7 seconds, Kaneland responded with 28 straight points.
Four-year Kaneland starting feature back Jonathan Alstott had three of the Knights' touchdowns.
Chaz Shaw had a 56-yard run to set up the first Kaneland score.
The Knights were soon back in business as Alstott and quarterback Joe Smith collaborated on a 30-yard scoring reception.
Kaneland recovered an onside kick moments later, and the Knights' third first-quarter touchdown came on another Smith connection, this time to Colton Doll from 30 yards away.
Alstott then stretched the Knights' cushion to 28-10 with a 10-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter.
But Yorkville reduced its first-half deficit to 28-17 and then took command of the game by limiting Kaneland to 49 total yards and 4 first downs after halftime.
"Offensively, they put together some good drives," Ryan said of Yorkville.
"Give our kids credit for weathering the storm and bouncing back," McGuire said.