Football: Hubs brace for quarterfinal matchup against Wheaton St. Francis

The Rochelle Hub varsity football team will host Wheaton St. Francis on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinal round of the IHSA 4A Playoffs. Rochelle defeated Johnsburg 34-22 in the second round. (Photo by Marcy DeLille)

Rochelle seeking first state semifinal berth since 2002

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity football team has reached the quarterfinal round of the IHSA 4A Playoffs for the first time since the 2017 season. Unlike the team’s last quarterfinal appearance, which came on the road against Morris, Rochelle will compete on its home field as the seventh-seeded Hubs gear up to face the third-seeded Wheaton (St. Francis) Spartans.

The Hubs (9-2, 4-1 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue) rolled into the quarterfinals after scoring a 34-22 road win against Johnsburg this past Friday. Rochelle rushed for nearly 400 yards in the victory over the Skyhawks, with sophomore Erich Metzger stampeding for a team-high 158 yards on 25 carries. Junior Brock Metzger shined for the Rochelle defense, compiling a team-leading 12 tackles while sophomores Jack Pavlak and Kaiden Morris each had sacks.

“We’re all excited and we know St. Francis has a lot of good players, but we’ve been playing football together for all of our lives,” Pavlak said. “I think that could help us win. They have big linemen and they have fast wide receivers, but those aren’t things we haven’t seen before and I think we have a chance to play really well on Saturday if we’re able to neutralize those areas.”

Junior Tommy Tourdot and senior Aidan Rodriguez also recorded interceptions for the Rochelle defense, which limited the Skyhawks to only six second-half points this past weekend. While the Hubs have shown dominance on offense throughout the playoffs, Wheaton (St. Francis) enters the quarterfinals on a tear as well, coasting over Evergreen Park 42-0 after crushing Marengo 63-0 in the first round. The Spartans are allowing only 8.9 points per game this season.

“It’s an exciting feeling to reach the quarterfinals, especially after we lost in the second round last season,” Rodriguez said. “We know that St. Francis has a lot of good players and coach [Kyle] Kissack has shown us a lot of film on them. They throw the ball a lot and they throw it really well. They run a spread offense and they have some good wide receivers. The atmosphere during our home games is phenomenal and it definitely helps us play a lot better.”

The Spartans (10-1, 4-0 Metro Suburban Red) roster multiple Division I recruits including wide receiver Dash Dorsey (Kent State) and lineman T.J. McMillen (Illinois) as well as defensive end and long snapper Nick Duzansky (Oregon). Wheaton (St. Francis) will arrive at RTHS on Saturday averaging 44.9 points per game this season. Rochelle will attempt to earn its first 10-win season since 2003 and make the state semifinals for the first time since 2002.

“Hopefully the stands are packed so we’ll have that extra boost,” Pavlak said. “We want the fans to be so loud that they have a hard time hearing the calls on third down and fourth down. The biggest keys for us will be defending their passing attack because they have some good receivers. We need to get to their quarterback so he doesn’t have the time to make throws.”