Editors note: This is part one of a three-part series about Kaneland’s rivals—both current and historical. Part one focuses on more contemporary rivals, part two will feature a look at historical rivals, while part three will focus on our survey results. We encourage you to take our survey.
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Sorry, we are no longer taking entries for the Kaneland's Biggest Rival survey. see our paper Sept. 25, 2014 for the results!
Community gives take on favorite storied programs that have crossed Kaneland’s path
KANELAND—Since forming in the late 1950s, Kaneland athletic travels have taken many athletes to Illinois sports meccas.
Countless Knights and Lady Knights have done well enough to join sports showcases in Peoria, Normal and Joliet.
Those stops usually preceded athletic glory given to the black and silver (and sometimes orange).
But there’s just something about the more local programs Kaneland has faced throughout its time that brings a little more fervor and intensity. Contests for State glory in places like Detweiler Park in Peoria, or Silver Cross Field in Joliet are memorable, in part, because of the stakes involved at the end of a particular season.
However, there remains other times where it doesn’t matter the month or the standings— it’s just two rival schools trying to best one another on the pitch, gridiron or court.
Kaneland has dealt with and continues to deal with storied schools to this day, since entering conference play in groups like the Little Eight, Little Seven, Suburban Prairie and Western Sun before hooking up with the Northern Illinois Big XII.
Schools like Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha would give way to sustained conference rivals like Sycamore and Yorkville, while the Knights kept touch with Burlington Central and Geneva with or without a conference rival at stake.
In future issues, the Elburn Herald looks to get opinions and thoughts from a variety of people associated with Kaneland athletics. They coached and played under the Kaneland Knight banner, and have their own thoughts on who the biggest rival is, favorite rival to beat, and who they would have liked to face more often. You’ll also read about historical rivals that don’t cross Kaneland’s path much anymore, and readers will have a chance to mark their own opinion with a survey.
Andy Drendel, former cross country and track asset, and now a member of the KHS coaching staff for multiple sports, thinks the most noteworthy rivals were the more conventional ones—Sycamore and Yorkville.
“(Kaneland’s) been in the same conference since the Little Seven days; they are bordering schools with similar enrollment size,” Drendel says.
KHS girls basketball coach Ernie Colombe always gets geared up for Sycamore, as well.
“They’re similar size, and both schools have athletes who compete hard every contest. The two schools have been in the same conference for awhile, which helps build rivalries,” Colombe said. “I really enjoy playing all of our conference schools, but if I had to pick one, it would be Sycamore.”
David Dudzinski, who’s seen two children pass through Kaneland elite athletic history thus far, has a similar perspective on rival No. 1, taking over from another school in the recent past.
“When we were coming into this 15 to 20 years ago, it was always Sycamore. (It was) maybe proximity, but when I spoke to the people that went to school there in the ‘80s, that was it,” Dudzinski said. ”It seemed like Batavia, more than most schools east. It was always a heated battle, football or basketball. They had their chants, and it made for an electric atmosphere, especially when they were in the same conference.”
Former volleyball coach Todd Weimer had his favorites to beat while manning the court sidelines.
“When I was coaching, it was always Geneva and DeKalb,” Weimer said. “The girls knew almost all the players from Geneva. And as far as DeKalb goes, the coaches knew each other, and the rivalry was intense on the court and in the stands at both places. We got after Sycamore as well in the last three years when I was at Kaneland, as well, so it was fun to get them after all the years they beat us.”
Head boys cross country coach Chad Clarey feels one can enjoy the local competition in addition to having the drive to win.
“I enjoy running with Sycamore and Burlington Central,” Clarey said. “Both schools are very well coached in cross country, and they cultivate State-caliber runners on an annual basis. Our portion of the state is a hotbed for cross country talent. There’s been a history of strong track programs at BC and Kaneland. When a team does a victory lap on your home track and sings, it leaves a bit of a bitter taste that one can’t shake. Something like that can add to the rivalry, I guess.”