Kankakee is having a historic football season, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the town or the players themselves.
‘‘I go to the barbershop, I go to the store — anywhere I go, somebody is saying something [good],’’ senior quarterback Tomele Staples said. ‘‘It’s just a great feeling having the whole city behind us.’’
The Kays are 11-0 for the first time in the history of the program and are in the IHSA quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 and the third time overall.
Staples passed for 123 yards and two touchdowns to Karson King, and Nick Hill ran for 64 yards and three touchdowns as Kankakee rolled past Morgan Park 49-12 in a Class 5A second-round game Saturday at Gately Stadium.
The Kays will host Marion (10-1) next weekend, seeking the second semifinal berth in program history.
Expect them to rely once again on a deep corps of skill-position players and a fast, aggressive defense that scored a touchdown on Joseph Shannon’s scoop-and-score and forced 11 plays for negative yardage by the Mustangs (7-4).
‘‘A lot of times they were trying to go to the outside, but our good corners and safeties are always coming up and making the right plays,’’ Kankakee linebacker Dejour Marshall said.
‘‘We know we can match up with anyone in the state speed-wise,’’ Kays coach Derek Hart said. ‘‘We just knew it was going to be a physical game. We talked all week about just being a more physical team.’’
Until Morgan Park quarterback Aaron Warren ran for a 31-yard touchdown on the last play of the game, the Mustangs’ only score had come on a 16-yard run by Tysean Griffin in the second quarter. That kept Morgan Park somewhat within striking distance at halftime, down 21-6.
But the Kays used a 28-0 blitz in the third quarter to put the game away.
Impressively, they did it without relying much on Staples’ favorite target, Pierre Allen, who had one catch for eight yards.
‘‘We noticed they [were] keying on him a lot, so it opened up more for our sophomore receiver Quan [McElroy] and Nate [Hill] and Karson King,’’ Staples said. ‘‘I took what the defense gave to me.’’
Morgan Park’s focus now shifts to the Prep Bowl playoffs and an opponent to be determined next weekend. Coach Chris James said Griffin might not play again this season because of an injury.
Still, James said: ‘‘We’re a young team. We’ll be the better for it. We’ll be back. . . . Part of the process of building an elite team is you’ve got to go through things like this.’’
Meanwhile, the Kays will keep enjoying the ride.
‘‘We’re just out here playing football,’’ Staples said. ‘‘We’ve got guys out here dancing on the sidelines. It’s the funnest team I’ve ever played on.’’