LAKE FOREST – Hoping to turn the tables on a Lake Forest team that had come from behind in its last two games, the Kaneland football team opened the second half with a turnover and good field position, down just 11.
But the Knights couldn't capitalize, the Scouts got a key penalty and a score on the next possession, and went on to eliminate Kaneland, 35-10, in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs on Friday.
Lake Forest (7-4) led 14-3 at half but fumbled the kickoff. Kaneland (8-3) took over on the Lake Forest 18, and on first down Joe Smith seemed to have Ian Diehl open for a touchdown but the pass was dropped. Then the Scouts clamped down on defense, held on fourth and 11, and got the ball back.
"That was huge," Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli said. "We got out there in not a great situation. But the kids made a couple plays. On first down they dropped that pass for a touchdown. We responded after that. It was a big part of the game."
The Scouts came back from 20 down in the final game of the year to Stevenson just to make the playoffs, then came back from 14 down in the second half in the first round against Belvidere North.
Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said coming away empty on that possession hurt their chances at a comeback.
"We have to take advantage when we take advantage of a turnover and get in the end zone," Ryan said. "We missed too many touchdowns tonight. The turnovers killed us. We turned the ball over too many times and you can't turn the bail over in big games. And they capitalized on our mistakes."
Smith said the team felt good coming out of the half against what he called one of the best defenses Kaneland has seen this year.
"We were ready, we had to go on to score," Smith said. "We came up short, which is not what we needed. The momentum just went down. We were super high coming out, we were fired up, then after going (four) and out just killed the whole momentum to the game."
One of those mistakes came on the next possession. Facing a fourth and 13 on the Kaneland 33, the Scouts tried a fake punt that went incomplete, but the Knights were called for pass interference.
Ryan said he "didn't see pass interference" on the play and that his team was expecting a fake from punter Kai Kroeger, something they worked on defending all week.
Spagnoli said his team was in the right part of the field to go for it.
"It worked out," Spagnoli said. "I'm sure they don't feel great about it. But it worked out. Then our offense was able to keep the drive going."
Three plays later, Mac Uihlein ran in the first of his three touchdowns in the game, putting the Scouts up 21-3.
The Knights turned the ball over four times in the game, two interceptions by Smith and two fumbles by Max Gagne. But Ryan said he was impressed with the way his seniors fought the whole game and said he was pleased overall with the season.
"Yeah, we would have liked to make it past the next round," said Ryan of his team's third straight second round exit. "But we get back to work here, move on to next year."
Down 28-3 late in the third, the Knights broke their biggest play of the game when Gagne split two defenders and seemed to have a straight path to the end zone. But he was chased down by Jake Milliman, who Gagne said he didn't see coming.
Milliman punched the ball out, saving a score. Lake Forest recovered in the end zone.
"Oh my God, it just goes to show at what point in any game there's going to be an opportunity for you to make a play. He came from the back side, and to his credit, on their best player probably. (Gagne's) a great, great player. I'm sure he feels sick to his guts right now. But it's a crazy game."
Smith finished with 264 passing yards, 193 going to Gagne – including a 69-yard pass touchdown pass in the fourth.
"All these players, everyone on my team, it was a lot of fun," Smith said. "We had a great team. Our line was great. Our receivers were great. And the defense was really good this season."
Quarterback Richie Hoskins ran for both first-half touchdowns for Lake Forest and finished with 145 on the ground and 124 in the air. Uihlein had 64 yards and the three touchdowns as the Scouts advance to face either Kenwood or Deerfield at home next week.
"It always feels good to win," Spagnoli said. "I feel really good for these seniors."