HERSCHER — One week removed from winning without a single rushing touchdown, the Rochelle Hub varsity football team rediscovered its identity in explosion fashion Friday evening, when the Hubs stampeded for over 400 rushing yards against the Herscher Tigers on the road.
Looking for revenge after falling against Herscher at home last season, Rochelle rallied behind its three senior running backs, who each exceeded 100 yards on the ground as the Hubs dominated Herscher 49-13 to start the season with two straight victories. Senior Garrett Gensler ran for a team-high 136 yards on nine carries, while senior Trey Taft followed with 120 rushing yards on seven carries and senior Cody Cullum finished with 109 rushing yards on 10 carries.
“We had a much better mindset tonight,” Gensler said. “Our coaches were on us last week about playing how we’re supposed to play and I think we did that tonight. We were more physical and our pads were lower than theirs. We were getting off the ball well and our backs were finding the holes. Losing against Herscher last season forced us to figure out who we were as a team and I’m glad we were able to come back today and really give it to them.”
The Hubs (2-0, 0-0 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue) needed only three plays to strike first, with Gensler taking a toss outside and sprinting 30 yards to the end zone to give Rochelle the early advantage. After a quick three-and-out and a near blocked punt allowed the Hubs to start in prime field position on their next possession, Taft turned his first carry of the night into points, knifing through the Herscher defensive line for a 53-yard touchdown scamper.
Rochelle’s defense forced another three-and-out late in the first quarter, gaining possession again and capitalizing on good field position with a 44-yard touchdown run from Cullum, who maneuvered through the middle of the Herscher defense to put the Hubs ahead 21-0. A fourth-down conversion allowed the Tigers to reach the end zone near the end of the first quarter, with quarterback Brock Wenzelman running outside and scoring on a 4-yard rush.
But Herscher had no answers for the Rochelle offense, which totaled 440 yards including 427 yards on the ground. After Garrett Gensler’s 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter extended Rochelle’s lead, sophomore brother Grant Gensler intercepted a halfback pass near the Herscher sideline, returning the ball into the Tiger red zone where Taft cashed in the brief scoring drive three plays later, leaping over a pile of Herscher linemen for a 5-yard touchdown.
The Tigers tried finding success through the air on their ensuing drive, but three straight incompletions resulted in their first turnover on downs. Over the next three plays, Taft ran for 22 yards, Gensler ran for 22 yards and Cullum finished the drive with a 17-yard touchdown rush through the middle. The Hubs went into halftime leading Herscher 41-7. Rochelle’s defense also held Tiger tight end and Illinois State commit Travis Jones to only 38 yards on two catches.
“We knew we had to follow him wherever he was on the field,” said junior linebacker Brock Metzger, who totaled two tackles including one tackle for loss. “We’re competing on defense and we’re being nasty out there. It’s an amazing feeling to be 2-0. We have to be physical against Johnsburg next week and we have to find a way to win. They have a really good team.”
Herscher received the second-half kickoff, but the Tigers didn’t hold the ball for long, with Cullum intercepting an attempted screen pass and bringing the ball into the Herscher red zone.
Rochelle again capitalized on the Tiger mistake when Gensler rushed for a 13-yard touchdown off the right side of the line two plays later. Junior Tommy Tourdot led the Hub defense with six tackles, while Grant Gensler added five tackles and sophomore Xavier Villalobos had four tackles. Rochelle will shoot for a 3-0 start at Johnsburg on the road next Friday at 7 p.m.
“We’re off to a great start but we have to continue getting better every week,” Gensler said. “Johnsburg has a good team and we’ll be facing even more good teams moving forward.”