Big 2nd half sends Kaneland to 6A playoff win
Troyer Carlson rushed for a touchdown and threw for three more to lead Kaneland to a 35-14 victory over Riverside-Brookfield during Friday's Class 6A first-round game in Maple Park.
Kaneland (7-3) will play next week against the winner of Saturday's game between Crystal Lake South (5-4) and Prairie Ridge (8-1).
The Knights erupted for 28 points in the third quarter after going into halftime deadlocked at 7-7.
It was the second straight week where Kaneland came out strong in the third quarter to seize control of a game.
"We did another really good job in the third quarter," Knights coach Pat Ryan said. "Our pass protection got good and Troyer settled down. We talked to him at halftime, and he was making throws and hit some connections, and our defense continued to play great so it was just good team football in that third quarter.
"We just got to get rolling in the first quarter, too, know what I mean?"
Neither team scored in the opening quarter, but Carlson went nearly untouched for an 8-yard run just 36 seconds into the second quarter for a 7-0 Kaneland lead.
Riverside-Brookfield (6-4) drew even with 4:02 left in the second quarter on a possession that was sparked by a Dillon Coen sack that helped the Bulldogs start their drive on the Kaneland 42-yard line.
Diego Gutierrez's short screen to Luke Kumskis on the opening play of that drive turned into a touchdown as the 6-foot-3 junior found an opening and rambled in to make it 7-7.
"We were very competitive all the way through, and I thought we matched up well with them with size, speed and everything," Bulldogs coach Sam Styler said. "They just were able to hit on a couple more plays than we were."
Tyler Bradshaw's 22-yard touchdown run with 10:18 left in the third quarter provided the Knights with a great start to the second half, but the Bulldogs quickly responded.
Facing a fourth-and-3 on the Kaneland 9-yard line, Gutierrez threaded a brave pass to Tohma Tucker in the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 with 6:16 left in the third quarter.
It was the kind of play that could've turned the game around, but it only seemed to fire up Carlson, who was just getting started.
First, it was his beautiful 40-yard strike to sophomore Dylan Sanagustin with 4:55 left in the third quarter to give Kaneland a 21-14 lead. Less than two minutes later, he lobbed a screen to Johnny Spallasso who turned it into a 61-yard touchdown.
"It was a (wide receiver) screen right, one of our favorite plays," Spallasso said. "We run it in practice a lot and practice it well. Our linemen got out downfield and gave me some great blocks and I took it to the house after that."
The Knights would get the ball back again in the quarter with fantastic field position after Dawson Trebolo got a coveted punt block.
"We were blitzing and I was able to get through there and block it," he said. "It was insane the amount of momentum we got from that, and we had a lot of momentum already, but the more momentum we can get, the merrier."
The Knights turned the blocked punt into a 27-yard touchdown pass from Carlson to Dom DeBlasio with 21 seconds left in the third quarter and suddenly a tight game was blown open.
"We bounced back from our mistakes and fixed what we needed to at half and came out and punched it in in the third quarter," Carlson said. "It was a great team effort in the third quarter."
Indeed. A blocked punt. Four touchdowns. It's the kind of quarter you wish you could bottle up and repeat unless you're on the other side of it.
"We played them really tough in the first half and we kind of knew what they were going to come out in, and we were able to effectively stop it," Styler said. "(In the third quarter) we couldn't find an answer to some of their deep threats and some of their screens. But, I'm extremely proud of my guys for the way they fought. It was awesome."