Kaneland keeps playoff hopes alive

By Brian Hoxsey
Shaw Media
Updated 10/15/2021 11:17 PM

The Kaneland Knights used 373 passing yards including six TD passes from Troyer Carlson and a defense that allowed just 6 rushing yards on 31 Ottawa carries to roll up a 52-26, Kishwaukee River/Interstate Eight White Division victory Friday.

Kaneland is now 4-4 and 3-2, snapped a two-game losing streak and inched closer to a playoff berth.


Ottawa falls to 2-6, 1-5.

"Coming in, we knew we had to win this game," said Carlson. "Now we have to win next week. After losing the past two weeks, we knew we had to come out strong and do our jobs. I knew I had to play good tonight, and I feel like I did that."

Carlson finished 19 of 30 passing with a pair of scoring strikes to both Johnny Spallasso (four catches, 120 yards) and Sam Gagne (4-46), plus one each to Aric Johnson (five catches, 135 yards) and Corey Phillips (1-14). Phillips also had 132 yards rushing on 20 carries and a TD.

"Our receivers are amazing, and I know if I throw a 50/50 ball that they are going to come down with it," said Carlson. "Our offensive line did a great job tonight of giving me time, and the guys made great catches all night for some big plays."

Kaneland forced an Ottawa punt on the game's opening possession, but the Knights lost the ball on downs at the Pirates 9. The Pirates were forced to punt again, and Sam Gagne returned the ball 36 yards to the Ottawa 19.

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Then on the next play, Gagne made a great leaping catch in the back of the end zone on a pass from Troyer Carlson, and after the extra-point kick failed, the visitors led 6-0 at the 6-minute, 38-second mark.

The Pirates were forced to punt for the third time, but a Carlson pass was high and Javarius Whitfield picked it off and returned it 18 yards to the Kaneland 25. On the ensuing play, Pirates QB Braiden Miller hit Conner Price for a game-tying score at the 1:17 mark.

Kaneland struck back on a 69-yard bomb from Carlson to Johnny Spallasso to make it 12-6 at the end of one quarter.

"We knew we had to get things going and stay mistake-free, and I think we did that tonight," said Kaneland coach Pat Ryan. "Our pass protection was much better than it has been the last couple weeks, and we gave Troyer opportunities to throw the ball, and our receivers made some good plays. We also, especially in the second half, ran the ball better than we have been."

Ottawa tied the game at 10:07 on Whitfield's 1-yard run off right end that completed an eight-play, 55-yard drive which included 14- and 29-yard completions from Miller to Levi Sheehan.


Kaneland countered with a 74-yard pitch and catch from Carlson to Aric Johnson to make it 18-12. The Knights' Dawson Trebolo blocked a Pirates punt, and Alex Panico returned the recovery 32 yards to make it 24-12. Ottawa then drove from its own 40 to the Kaneland 20 in 14 plays and nearly six minutes, but a bobbled snap on fourth-and-10 ended the threat with 1:43 before halftime.

The Knights moved the ball to the Ottawa 14 before Carlson hit Corey Phillips on a scoring screen pass, the PAT kick good, to make it 31-12 with 39 seconds before half. They then opened the second half with a 13-yard TD run by Phillips and Carlson's fifth TD pass of the game and second to Spallasso from 16 yards out to make it 45-12.

Miller then connected with Ryan DeMoss for a 53-yard score to make it 45-19. Carlson fired his sixth TD pass to Gagne, this one from 22 yards out, to make it 52-19. Miller then connected with Whitfield on a 65-yard pass to finish out the scoring with just over five minutes to play.

Miller led Ottawa with 300 yards passing, including seven catches for 103 yards by Levi Sheehan and 94 yards on three receptions by Whitfield.

"We needed this win," said Ryan. "We've got another step to take next week. We are just taking it one week at a time."

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