ROCHELLE — The ongoing Chicago Public School strike has put the IHSA Playoffs in jeopardy for many varsity football programs in the Windy City. In the Hub City, however, head coach Kyle Kissack and the Rochelle boys are aiming to finish the 2019 season strong when they travel to Ottawa on Friday for their final conference game this fall.
Rochelle rolls into this week fresh off an exciting Senior Night victory over Plano. Kissack and his coaching staff are focused on helping the Hubs send their seniors off on a high note, and the team’s 42-0 romping of the Reapers put the purple and white in the right direction.
“It was very important for our kids to play well on Friday and get a win for those seniors,” Kissack said. “These kids hung together and they’ve really battled through some adverse situations… It was important for us to honor that class and the work they’ve put in over the course of their respective careers.”
The Hubs will conclude their season against an Ottawa squad that has lost seven consecutive games and remains winless in the Interstate 8 Conference. Rochelle can defeat the Pirates on Friday to keep their extremely slim hopes of reaching the IHSA Playoffs alive, with those hopes contingent on the CPS strike continuing into next week.
The IHSA announced this past Wednesday that the Chicago Teachers Union must end its strike by Oct. 29 in order for CPS schools to play in the state playoffs. CPS teams will still be placed in the playoff brackets on Oct. 26, but in order to play first-round playoff games, qualifying teams would have to practice on Oct. 30, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Ottawa has some good personnel,” Kissack said. “Their quarterback was touted as one of the better players in the state after the summer and he throws the ball well… They’ve typically defended us well. We have to get better this week because we’re playing a team that’s likely sharing the same type of message we are. Both teams want to finish on a high note.”
Rochelle has had Ottawa’s number in recent seasons. The Hubs haven’t lost against the Pirates since 2015 and Rochelle’s three recent wins over Ottawa have come by a combined score of 118-13. Kissack said that consistency from his sophomore and junior players will be important as the Hubs prepare for their 2019 finale.
“We’ll have a few plays or a stretch of a series where we’re fundamentally sound,” Kissack said. “Our footwork, our pad level and our head placement will all be where they need to be. We’ll then have a few plays or a series where we lack that consistency, and over the course of this season, that’s been our Achilles’ heel. Our inconsistencies have really come back to haunt us.”