Kays rally across courts

Kankakee football player Pierre Allen hypes up the Kays' fan section during a timeout at this season's All-City volleyball game against Bishop McNamara.

When Kankakee’s football team compiled a 4-2 record last spring and continued its resurrection as a program, the Kays did so without fans in the stands for five of those games, as the Southland Athletic Conference did not permit fans for any spring sports because of COVID-19.

Other area football teams had the pleasure of playing in front of fans, but that wasn’t the case for everyone. Volleyball matches were played in front of very limited crowds, usually just a couple dozen supporters of the home team.

But that’s changed this fall, both for the Kays and for all volleyball teams. And we’ve seen the past couple of weeks just how much that essence was missed last year. With two of the three legs of this year’s All-City volleyball season over, Bishop McNamara went into rowdy environments at Kankakee and Bradley-Bourbonnais, matchups that were missing a year ago.

I got to also see how energetic the atmosphere was in Herscher the other night, when the Tigers hosted Wilmington in a three-set thriller on the volleyball court. On the football field Friday, for the second time in three weeks, I got to see the Kays dance in jubilation as the band played the school fight song.

When moments such as that coincide with the games, it’s just different. It’s different for players, who experience a whole different kind of adrenaline rush with jeers from visiting fans just as much as they do from hearing the band play the national anthem before kickoff.

Last spring, we got what we could. This fall, we’re getting what we love.

Quick Recap

Here are the area’s football scores from Week 2:

• Kankakee 56, Hope Academy 20

• Bishop McNamara 60, Ridgewood 0

• Lockport 43, Bradley-Bourbonnais 7

• Wilmington 10, Coal City 7

• Peotone 35, Manteno 21

• Streator 45, Herscher 40

• Reed-Custer 42, Lisle 14

• Central 26, Oakwood 8

• Momence 30, Hoopeston 14

• Iroquois West 49, Georgetown-Ridge Farm 0

• Martinsville 44, Milford-Cissna Park 32

• Bismarck-Henning defeated Watseka via forfeit

• Westville defeated Dwight via forfeit

Party of 3

By the time Kankakee answered a midgame test from Hope Academy and ran away with a five-touchdown win, the Kays saw a trio of players dazzle with three-score performances. Jyaire Hill scored on offense (20-yard rush), defense (99-yard fumble return) and special teams (53-yard punt return), and quarterback Tomele Staples hooked up with Pierre Allen for three touchdown passes.

The Kays climbed all the way up to the second spot in the Class 6A AP poll last week, where they likely will reside ahead of a home tilt with Champaign Centennial this week. If they keep getting performances similar to those, that ranking could end up being too low.

‘Cats outclaw the Coalers

We know year in and year out the annual meeting between Wilmington and Coal City is going to be a game-of-the-year candidate, with plenty of defense and discipline. This fall’s version was no different, as the Wildcats went on the road and claimed a 10-7 victory.

The winner of the annual rivalry has gone on to win the Illinois Central Eight Conference each of the two years it’s existed. But with so many solid teams in the conference this year ⁠— including the Peotone team the Wildcats will take on Friday ⁠— this year’s meeting is likely just the start of sorting out conference standings and not the end.

Mac on track

After a slow start out of the gate, with just one touchdown apiece in its first two games, the Bishop McNamara offense caught fire at Ridgewood, where the Fightin’ Irish went off in a 60-0 victory that saw four different players score rushing touchdowns and two different quarterbacks throw a touchdown.

Sure, the tests get much tougher than a Ridgewood program that hasn’t had a winning season in five years, but the Irish got the confidence boost they needed and will hope to ride that wave when they look for revenge at Wheaton Academy on Friday.

Mason Schweizer is an award-winning reporter who has been with the Daily Journal since 2017 and sports editor since 2019. Save for time at the University of Illinois and Wayne State College, Mason is a lifelong area resident.