Derek Hart almost sent shockwaves across the state Friday night, as the Kankakee Kays nearly knocked off Crete-Monee, the fifth-ranked team in Class 6A, and state runner-up from one year ago. The Kays fell 27-26 in an instant classic.
The Kays dropped to 1-1 on the season with the loss.
Kankakee came out firing on all cylinders to start Friday’s home matchup in front of a jam-packed home crowd.
The Kays scored on their first two possessions to put the Warriors on their heels early.
Kays quarterback Tyjone Stewart made plays with his feet and arm on the games opening drive. He hit Lavelle McIntosh on seem route on fourth-and-20 but fumbled, and teammate Aveon Pittman was there to fall on the ball in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
Defensive back Jordan Adams intercepted Crete-Monee quarterback Trayvon Rudolph a few plays later to give Kankakee total momentum.
Stewart hit Johnathon Pitts on a beautiful 60-yard go route to extend the lead to 12-0 and bring the crowd to its feet.
Rudolph rallied the Warriors back halfway through the second quarter, scoring on a two-yard run with 6 minutes, 28 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 12-7.
The Kays kept moving the ball offensively, but penalties stalled their drives.
Rudolph converted a fourth and nine with just more than a minute left in the half, setting up a Kavon Williams touchdown to give the Warriors a 14-12 lead just before halftime.
Crete-Monee took their opening possession of the second half for a touchdown on a 35-yard run from Rudolph to push the lead to 21-12 with 10:37 remaining in the third quarter.
The Kays offense pushed back with a touchdown themselves on the ensuing possession. Stewart hit McIntosh on a 35-yard pass, followed by connecting with Chatavion Spivey on a 12-yard pass.
Stewart rushed into the end zone from nine yards out to cut the Warriors lead to 21-20 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
Rudolph connected again on a clutch fourth and nine from the Kays 39-yard line before Kavon Jones rumbled into the end zone from 10 yards out, making the score 27-20.
Down seven points, the Kays didn’t panic and instead established the run with Mattias Clark. Clark ripped off a 46-yard run, setting himself up for a two-yard touchdown run to end the drive, bringing the Kays within one point with just more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Deylon Johnson intercepted Rudolph early in the fourth quarter, giving the Kays a chance to take the lead.
Stewart went up top to McIntosh on the first play after the interception, but the pass was intercepted.
The Kays defense would go on to get a stop, getting the ball back with just under five minutes left in the game.
Kankakee drove into Warrior territory, before coming up one yard short on a Stewart scramble on fourth and three from the 18-yard line.
With their backs against the wall, the opportunistic Kays defense recovered a fumble to give them one more chance thanks to a KeSean Williams fumble recovery on the Warrior 21-yard line with only 1:08 left.
After a fumbled snap and a sack, Stewart went deep to McIntosh twice but was unable to connect, ending an exciting game for the upstart Kays.
Hart said one of his takeaways from tonight is the way the Kays competed against a top-notch opponent like the Warriors, a team that’s made the playoffs 14 consecutive seasons.
“I was happy with the way we competed,” Hart said. “We faced some adversity tonight and stood tall in the face of it.
“That’s a really good football team over there in Crete-Monee. But I think we are as well. This is a learning process, and we’ll keep learning from this.”
Clark led the Kays with 96 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Stewart had 90 yards rushing and a touchdown, and was 8 for 12 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown and an interception. Pitts caught two passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. McIntosh added 57 yards receiving on two grabs.
The Kays travel to play Thornwood on Friday.