KANKAKEE — Despite a 58-point shutout victory at Bloom last week, Kankakee head football coach Derek Hart told local media this week his Kays still had some holes to patch up ahead of Friday night’s home finale against Thornton.

Seventy-six points later, it looks like those patches have been sewn up.

Thanks to a five-touchdown game and a defense and special teams unit that each scored as well, the Kays scored the most points since at least the Eastridge-Westview merger in 1983, and what is believed to be the most points in a single game in school history with a 76-0 victory over Thornton Friday to improve to 4-1 on the year and 4-0 in the Southland Athletic Conference.

“It’s a special group ... what they’ve done the past two years is really special to us as coaches,” Hart said. “Each week we’ve been getting better — we’re executing better, practicing better, everything is better offensively and the offensive line is doing a hell of a job.”

It was also the third-straight shutout for the team’s defense, who set the offense up in Thornton territory five times and inside their own 40-yard line for seven of the offense’s eight drives, which all resulted in touchdowns.

With the Kays ahead 14-0 with just over a minute left in the first quarter, all four Kankakee defensive linemen pressured Thornton quarterback Ty’lor Nixon, whose wobbly pass deflcted off of an official and into the opportunistic hands of Jyaire Hill. Ty Stewart took the ensuing play 52 yards, followed up by the second of five total touchdowns from Aveon Pittman.

It was that Hill interception that Hart thought was the turning point that took the team’s defense, and play as a whole, from a 9.5 to a 10.

“They flew around all game,” Hart said of the defense. “[Defensive coordinator Ed] Hazlett had us prepared well, Jyaire made a huge play and it just snowballed after that.”

Pittman scored four of his five touchdowns as part of a 17-carry, 155-yard effort on the ground and added another through the air on a 20-yard reception from Tomele Staples in his final home game as a Kay.

“I wish I could say it feels good but it really doesn’t feel good,” Pittman said of the fact his home football career is over. “I just love playing home games … I’ve had a good run with these boys, and I love these boys.”

Despite having only eight offensive possessions, the Kays were able to score 11 total touchdowns thanks to the aforementioned defense and a feisty special teams unit. Joeron Hill returned a punt 37 yards for a touchdown, and Stewart housed the opening kickoff of the second half 65 yards for a score.

Defensive end Willie Norwood was one of three Kays to record a sack and also found paydirt for the second-straight week when he took a fumbled snap four yards in for a touchdown.

“Scoop it and score,” Norwood said his mindset is when running returns back. “I just hope I don’t get caught, so I keep running without looking back.”

The historic offensive outburst came in front of empty bleachers, as the Southland voted against allowing spectators for spring sports. But that didn’t stop a handful of students and parents from parking their cars outside the stadium gates to witness history their classmates, children and family members made Friday.

“Some is better than none,” Pittman said of the supporters. “It was great we had people want to come sit outside the gates just to watch us play.”

STAT BOOK

Pittman’s 155 yards led a Kays backfield that tallied 294 total yards. Demere Turner added 62 yards and a score on just three carries. Karson King scored a nine-yard touchdown and David Haley had 19 yards and a touchdown.

The Kays’ defense held Thornton to just 34 total yards on 33 plays. Norwood, Marques Covington and Tamarion Lee each had a sack. Jyaire Hill and Davi Jones each had interceptions. Joeron Hill, Covington and Norwood each had three tackles for loss.

UP NEXT

The Kays can win the Southland with a victory at Crete-Monee at 7 p.m. Friday. The Warriors handed the Kays a 27-26 loss a season ago, something Hart and his team still remember as this year’s conference crown will be decided when the teams hit the field.

“That one-point loss last year, the taste is still in our mouths,” Hart said. “We’ve taken it week by week but now we’re here and the focus is on Crete-Monee.”

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.