Football: Hubs dominate all three phases against Harvard

Junior Alex Pemberton tackles Harvard's Edward Rosales during the Rochelle Hub varsity football game against the Hornets on Friday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Lewis throws two touchdown passes as Rochelle cruises to 49-6 win

HARVARD — Junior quarterback Carson Lewis had a chance to showcase his improved arm strength when the Rochelle Hub varsity football team traveled for an Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference Blue Division showdown against the winless Harvard Hornets on Friday.

One week after the Hubs rushed for over 400 yards and dominated Johnsburg 48-0 without throwing a single pass, Lewis aired the football out against the Hornets, completing 6-of-9 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers as Rochelle cruised over Harvard 49-6. It was the second two-touchdown passing game of the season for Lewis, who has grown more confident under center in his first season as the starting quarterback for the Hubs.

“It makes me feel good and I know that I have a good offensive line to protect me,” Lewis said. “I have wide receivers I can trust and my offensive linemen are good at blocking. We wanted to score as many points as possible as quickly as possible tonight. We were humbled after our second game of the season and we’ve pushed ourselves over these last two games.”

Rochelle (3-1, 2-0 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue) opened the game with a special teams highlight, with junior lineman Ryan Senne blocking a Harvard punt to give the Hubs tremendous field position early in the first quarter. Rochelle capitalized on the play, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run from freshman wingback Dylan Manning, who had 80 rushing yards on only six carries. With Harvard slowing the game down, Rochelle held a 7-0 lead after one quarter.

The Hornets used 10 plays to advance the ball 28 yards on their opening drive, melting away nearly nine minutes of clock, but the Hubs forced an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 to retake possession near midfield. Rochelle’s defensive stand set up another scoring drive capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to junior wide receiver Elijah Harley, who broke free near the back of the end zone for his first touchdown reception of the season and his varsity career.

“I felt like my arm strength wasn’t very good last year, but I’ve built a lot of muscle over the last year,” Lewis said. “I’ve improved my reads from watching film and I think I’ve become a smarter football player… We need to play our best game up front next week when we play Sycamore.”

A three-and-out on Harvard’s next possession enabled the Hubs to extend their lead early in the second quarter, where a 10-yard pass to Harley and long runs from Manning and junior tailback Grant Gensler highlighted a nine-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown run from sophomore fullback Roman Villalobos. Gensler led the Rochelle offense on the ground, rushing for 95 yards on 12 carries while Villalobos added 51 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Harvard struggled to move the football against a stout Rochelle defense, which held the Hornets to only 98 total yards and just five first downs in the game. After once again forcing a three-and-out late in the second quarter, Manning broke loose for a 27-yard gain and Gensler found the end zone on a 35-yard scamper off the right side to help give the Hubs a 28-0 lead.

“We had to play perfectly on defense tonight,” senior linebacker Brock Metzger said. “We messed some things up on that first drive and I thought there were some things that we could’ve done better. We’re playing hard, we’re playing fast and we’re being physical on defense. We need to come back and do even better against Sycamore because we know they’re tough.”

The Hubs forced their first turnover of the night late in the second quarter, with senior corner Tommy Tourdot intercepting a deflected pass from Harvard quarterback Adam Cooke and giving Rochelle possession deep inside Hornet territory. Tourdot’s defensive gem led to a fourth second-quarter touchdown for the Hubs, who scored on a fourth-and-10 down where Lewis fired a 27-yard pass to senior receiver Cayden Moore, who hauled in his first touchdown of the year.

Rochelle deployed its traditional smashmouth football to start the third quarter, utilizing 14 plays and almost seven minutes of clock to move the ball 80 yards and score on a 14-yard rushing touchdown from Gensler. Leading 42-0, Rochelle iced the road win midway through the fourth quarter, where senior wingback Riley Damask ran for a 15-yard touchdown and Lewis, who handles kicking duties as well, made the extra point to finish 7-for-7 on point-after attempts.

Harvard avoided the shutout in the final seconds, scoring on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Cooke to Edward Rosales with Rochelle’s reserves taking over on defense. The Hubs, who totaled 396 yards in the win, will travel for an Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference crossover matchup against Sycamore next week. The Spartans are currently 4-0 on the year.

“We struggled against Morton in Week 2 and I was upset after that loss,” Metzger said. “But we came back the next week and practiced hard. We’ve kicked some butt over our last two games and we’re getting the job done. We have to be absolutely perfect against Sycamore next week.”