JOHNSBURG — Seven forced turnovers and several more punts highlighted Friday’s back-and-forth defensive showdown between the Rochelle football team and the Johnsburg Skyhawks.
An opening kickoff return spelt trouble for the Hubs, but Rochelle didn’t concede a touchdown on defense until the third quarter of the nonconference battle. Johnsburg put the clamps on Rochelle’s rushing attack, however, stopping the Hubs on three red-zone drives in the first half and pulling out an 18-6 victory. Rochelle dropped to 1-1 overall with the loss.
“Our defense played really well tonight and I was really happy with our defensive effort,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “We did plenty of things ourselves that put our team in bad positions tonight… Part of being a young team is working through adversity to be successful. We didn’t quite get through that tonight, but it was a great experience for us to learn from, and it will only be a great experience if we can get better.”
Johnsburg (1-1) needed only 16 seconds to take the lead after Jacob McKinney returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The Skyhawks turned the ball over on their second possession, as Rochelle senior Austin Greifenkamp intercepted quarterback Max Kegel’s pass attempt and put the Hubs in Johnsburg territory.
Rochelle drove down to the Johnsburg 1-yard line before the Skyhawks stuffed the Hubs on fourth down to take the football back. Johnsburg didn’t get far, however, as Rochelle junior Ben Harvey forced a fumble that senior Nick Albers recovered to set the Hubs up for another scoring chance. Rochelle entered the second quarter looking to score, but an interception by the Skyhawks at their 10-yard line shut the Hubs down once again.
The game took an unfortunate turn for Rochelle midway through the second quarter when Harvey was carted off the field with an upper-body injury. Senior Keegan Davis-Carter took over in the backfield, and Davis-Carter stepped up with a 7-yard touchdown run that cut the Johnsburg lead to 7-6 with 4:09 to play in the first half.
The turnover battle continued when Albers intercepted Kegel late in the second quarter. Senior Ethan Etes tossed a long fade for junior Nolan Morrissette on the next Rochelle drive, but the pass was intercepted around the Johnsburg 15-yard line. The final turnover of the half came when senior Charlie Jandak recovered Kegel’s second fumble of the game in the final seconds.
“We had two shots inside the 5-yard line in the first half and we took a shot with the fade,” Kissack said. “We had plenty of opportunities to finish drives with points and we didn’t do that. We have to finish in order to be successful with the style of football that we want to play. We have to stay healthy and I know we’ll get better.”
Turnovers continued hurting Rochelle in the second half, as a fumble on the team’s first drive led to Johnsburg taking a 13-6 lead with McKinney’s 26-yard rushing touchdown. The Skyhawks extended their lead when Jimmy Broderick connected on a 20-yard field goal and the Johnsburg special teams forced a fumble out of the end zone for a safety late in the third quarter. Neither team put points on the board during the fourth quarter.