Warriors prepare for state power Kaneland
The emphasis went on the second use of the adverb "really" as Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer talked about Friday's opponent Kaneland before practice on Wednesday.
"Kaneland is a really, really good team," Schlemmer said.
There was not beating around the bush, and there is no need to.
The Kaneland Knights (2-0) are really, really good. The Knights are coming off a 45-14 win over IC Catholic last Friday. The victory extended Kaneland's regular season win streak to 30. Kaneland is ranked third in 5A. Sterling (2-0) is ranked 10th.
Coincidentally, the player that did the most damage against IC Catholic was wearing No. 30. Running back Jesse Balluf rushed for 182 yards on 16 carries and the team's first three touchdowns. In all, he has 269 rushing yards and five touchdowns in two games.
Sterling fans will remember Balluf from last year's meeting. He rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown in Kaneland's 42-0 clobbering of the Warriors.
They will also remember Drew David. The senior quarterback threw for 130 yards a year ago. So far he's posted 397 passing yards.
"They are big and so fast," Schlemmer said. "They are very athletic. The big thing is that the coaching staff does an outstanding job of putting their players in the perfect place to succeed.
"This will be a great challenge for our kids. We are going to be able to see how we stack up. Whenever you line up across from a guy that could be a D1 recruit, you get a good idea of where you stand."
While David and Balluf get a lot of the attention, Schlemmer says the success starts on the line of scrimmage for the Knights. He calls the front five the best he has seen during his coaching tenure.
It will be a challenge for a Sterling line that has played well, but has admitted to needing improvement after wins over Metamora and Johnsburg.
"We have to get better in our pass protection," Sterling junior lineman Jason Wolber said. "We have to give Bryant [Lilly] a little more time so that we can pick them apart.
"On defense we are going to have to be physical. We have to get 11 guys to the ball and give 100 percent."
So far this season, Sterling has shown a penchant for the big play. The have six scores of 40 or more yards. The key against Kaneland might be in controlling the ball with time-consuming drives.
"We run such a fast-paced offense," Wolber said, "we can wear down teams. Hopefully, we can control the ball, so that by the third and fourth quarter they've started to wear down a little bit."
Schlemmer pointed to the running game as being a key focus for the week. After rushing for 153 yards in the opening win over Metamora, the Warriors were held to 67 yards against Johnsburg.
The yards against Metamora are also deceptive as 131 of them came on two plays.
"We've been getting back to fundamentals this week," Schlemmer said. "It's about focusing on your assignment, sustaining the block and getting to that next level."