Football: Defense stands tall as Hubs down Marengo

Sophomore Kaiden Morris (right) celebrates a tackle for loss during the Rochelle Hub varsity football game against Marengo on Friday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle holds Indians scoreless in second half of 48-27 win

MARENGO — In an explosive offensive battle where both teams combined for over 1,000 yards, it was the defense that came through for the Rochelle Hubs during the second half of Friday’s Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference varsity football matchup against Marengo.

Despite conceding four touchdowns to quarterback Josh Holst in the first half, Rochelle stopped the Indians on all four of their second-half drives, forcing one turnover along the way as the Hubs finished strong to defeat Marengo 48-27. Senior cornerback Aidan Rodriguez forced the turnover late in the third quarter, breaking up a pass that sophomore safety Grant Gensler snagged in the air for an interception that led to one of six rushing touchdowns by the Hubs.

“We were in our Cover 4 defense and I saw the ball coming into my zone,” Rodriguez said. “I sped up and made a play on the ball. We all did our part on the defensive end and coach [Brett] Zick made some great adjustments for us. It’s an amazing feeling to bounce back from a tough loss last week and we want to make a run for the conference championship this season.”

Rochelle (5-1, 3-0 I-8/KRC Blue) rushed for 582 yards in the game while scoring on each of its first three possessions. Sophomore fullback Erich Metzger gave the Hubs an early lead, plowing forward for a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to cap off a nine-play, 81-yard drive. Marengo answered right back, with Holst finding wide receiver Carter Heimsoth for a 7-yard touchdown near the pylon. The extra-point attempt went off the left upright and was no good.

The Hubs needed only three plays to score on their second drive, as senior tailback Garrett Gensler broke loose for a 36-yard touchdown run to ignite an 18-carry, 316-yard rushing performance in the game. The Indians responded once again on their next series, with Holst evading pressure and hitting wide receiver Logan Miller for a 28-yard touchdown pass. 

A 10-yard touchdown rush from senior wingback Trey Taft, who ran for 156 yards on 15 carries Friday evening, allowed Rochelle to keep an eight-point lead before the Indians tied the score on an 18-yard touchdown strike from Holst to wide receiver Gregory Baker and a 2-point conversion. The Hubs moved the ball to the Marengo 5-yard line on their next drive, but two run stops by the Indians and an incomplete pass on fourth down resulted in a turnover on downs.

Marengo took advantage of the defensive stand, with Brennen Kentgen escaping defenders for a 72-yard catch-and-run before Holst ran in a 4-yard touchdown to give the Indians their first lead of the night. Gensler, who surpassed 1,100 rushing yards for the season on Friday, helped the Hubs slip ahead 28-27 at halftime with a 35-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

The Indians used 15 plays on their opening drive of the second half, but Rochelle’s defense stood tall, forcing an incomplete pass and a near fumble that resulted in an illegal forward pass at the 12-yard line to take over possession. Gensler capitalized on his team’s defensive effort, shedding tacklers for a 76-yard run before scoring on a 1-yard rush to make it a 34-27 game.

“We continued to do what we do up front and coach Zick made some great adjustments on the back end,” senior lineman Bradley Cooney said. “We were covering their passes much better in the second half and we were getting after their quarterback more often as well. It’s an amazing feeling, especially because we were able to bounce back after a tough loss last week. We have to play with an edge and continue being nasty because when we do that, nobody can beat us.”

Rodriguez and Grant Gensler’s combined efforts led to an interception and an 18-yard touchdown run for the sophomore that put the Hubs ahead 40-27 early in the fourth quarter. A huge sack and forced fumble from Cooney late in the fourth quarter knocked Holst out of the game with a shoulder injury and resulted in a significant loss of yardage for the Indians, who were forced to punt for the first and only time of the night in a fourth-and-32 situation.

Taft iced the win for Rochelle, running in a 6-yard touchdown near the end of the fourth quarter. Junior linebacker Brock Metzger led the Hub defense with eight tackles, while Garrett Gensler had seven tackles and sophomore lineman Kaiden Morris recorded four tackles including two tackles for loss. Rochelle will host the Thornridge Falcons on Friday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.