Kaneland's big plays too much for Ottawa

Updated 4/16/2021 10:37 PM

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Pirates received a record-setting performance from junior quarterback Braiden Miller, but couldn't overcome four turnovers or a 199-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance from Kaneland junior Corey Phillips as the Knights pulled away for a 44-14 triumph Friday night at Ottawa's King Field.

"The offensive line played great up front, gave a lot of effort," said Phillips, who had six of his 21 carried go for double-digit gains. "And the receivers -- Sam [Gagne], Aric [Johnson], Jack [McIntire] -- all blocked really well to give me wide-open spaces on the outside."


Kaneland -- a winner of four straight -- moves to 4-1 heading into next Friday's season finale at unbeaten La Salle-Peru.

Ottawa -- which closes its season next Friday at Rochelle -- falls to 0-5 despite being within two scores midway through the fourth quarter.

"I just told the kids, it ended up 44-14, but this score was not indicative of how this game went," said Pirates head coach Chad Gross. "We were right there with them for three quarters. I was really happy with our kids. Kaneland's a great ballclub, a field goal from being undefeated. It's tough to hang in there with teams like that, and I was very proud of our effort today on senior night."

A 52-yard Johnson return of the opening kickoff set up the Knights to strike just 97 seconds in on the first of Phillips' three touchdowns.

The Pirates answered, though, as in another sign of things to come Miller completed a seven-play, 78-yard drive with a 30-yard scoring pass to Briar Naggs. Cam Loomis' PAT was good where Kaneland's first try was not, and Ottawa carried a 7-6 lead into the second quarter.

Kaneland on a 1-yard Jackson Certa plunge and a 19-yard TD strike from freshman QB Troyer Carlson to Johnson on the south sideline gave the Knights a 22-7 halftime advantage -- though it would have ben more if not for a spectacular pass breakup in the end zone by Ottawa's Conner Price as time expired.

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Ottawa got to within 28-14 in the fourth quarter when Miller found Javarius Whitfield all alone for a 65-yard score, but Phillips' final two touchdowns put things away despite Miller's 17-of-36 passing performance for 258 yards and two TDs -- the attempts and yards both new school records. Naggs (seven catches for 11 yards), Jacob Serby (five receptions for 62 yards) and Whitfield (with the one 65-yard catch) were his top targets.

But the Pirates had their success in the air offset by four interceptions and a total of negative-6 rushing yards on 26 attempts. The Knights defense was led by McIntire's two INTS, Justin Jamrowski's 1 1/2 QB sacks, Anthony Clevenger's two passes defensed and a punt block and tackle for loss courtesy of Brogan Behrends.

Offensively aside from Phillips, Carlson was 6-of-10 for 111 yards, one TD and one INT. Johnson (three catches for 46 yards) was his top target, though the Knights were slowed down by Tate Spicer's TFL and 1/2 sack and Dominic Gende blowing up a handful of plays from his D-line spot.

Kaneland also hurt itself with 11 penalties for 106 yards, but eventually won convincingly ahead of its season finale.

"Our team has big-play potential, and we can grind it out too," said Knights coach Pat Ryan. "I think that's what makes us a good football team.

"We've got to fix some things. We had too many penalties on both sides of the ball with our guys up front, but that's a veteran crew, and they helped paved the way for Corey to get those big runs and the skill guys to make some big plays.

"We really want to make this year special for this group of seniors. They want to finish strong, but we know we have a really tough LaSalle-Peru team next week. It's going to be a battle."

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