ROCHELLE — Defense has enabled the Rochelle football team to stay competitive over the first four weeks of the 2019 season. The Hubs will have arguably their toughest test of the year on Friday when they host Kaneland on Homecoming Night at 7 p.m.
The Knights (3-1) are cruising into the Week 5 matchup after dominating Sandwich 42-14 this past weekend. Kaneland has topped 40 points in each of its three victories this season, with the lone exception being a 35-14 loss against Sycamore on Sept. 13. Rochelle (1-3) will look to end its three-game losing streak after falling 11-0 at home to LaSalle-Peru this past weekend.
“We’re working to find a little more consistency,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “We have stretches in games where we execute well and make good adjustments, and we have stretches where we lack that consistency… We need to be more consistent in order to be successful. We have some kids who are banged up, but we have to find ways to overcome those things.”
While wins have been tough for the Hubs to bring home, Rochelle has held three opponents (Pekin, Johnsburg and LaSalle-Peru) to 21 points or less. Kissack will need his defense to step up on Friday against the Kaneland offense, which Kissack said has become more balanced recently.
“I’m really impressed with the way our defense has played,” Kissack said. “They’ve seen some challenging offenses and they’ve responded well. Our defense is the strength of our team right now, and they continue giving us opportunities to be successful. Historically, Kaneland has thrown the ball really well, and they’ve paired that with an effective running game, so they’re not as one-dimensional… It will be a challenge for our kids.”
Friday will be the first matchup between Rochelle and Kaneland since Week 9 of the 2018 season, when the Hubs upset the Knights 31-13 to finish 5-4 and qualify for the postseason. It was the first time Rochelle defeated Kaneland since 2007, and the Hubs will need another stunning effort this week if they hope to avoid a 1-4 start.
“We were able to control the clock last year, and we were able to get a couple of stops and sit on the football,” Kissack said. “Keeping their offense off the field is a priority for us since they’re explosive. But we have a completely different team this year, and they have a different team. We need to play fundamentally sound defense, and we need to find ways to control the line of scrimmage on offense.”