Football: Hubs reach halfway point after Harvard forfeit

Senior Nate Burdin closes in to make a tackle during the Rochelle Hub varsity football game against Johnsburg this past week. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle stands at 3-2 through five games

ROCHELLE — Friday evening will look a lot different for the Rochelle Hub varsity football team. With news coming down Thursday afternoon that Harvard would have to forfeit its Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference Blue Division matchup with the Hubs due to a COVID-19 situation, Rochelle will receive a forfeit victory rather than take the field against the Hornets.

The disappointing news arrived as the Hubs effectively reached the halfway point of the 2021 season. Now 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference after the forfeit from Harvard, head coach Kyle Kissack and the Hubs will look to capitalize on their remaining time this week in order to prepare for a home matchup next Friday against Marengo, who also has three wins so far.

“It’s a bad deal for Rochelle and it’s a bad deal for Harvard,” Kissack said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s the environment that we’re living in right now. These instances can come up out of nowhere and I think this will be a good learning experience for our kids in that we have to ensure we’re taking care of our business, staying healthy and being thoughtful of the situations we’re putting ourselves in. We have to continue to protect ourselves, especially because we’re transitioning into Homecoming Week and there will be a lot of activities happening in town.”

Rochelle arrives at the halfway mark of the season boasting a scoring average of 32.3 points per game on 315 total yards per game. The Hubs are outpacing their opponents 84-59 in first downs earned while totaling only five punts and four turnovers on offense. Junior Garrett Gensler has shined for the Hubs offensively, rushing for 413 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Senior Josh Lloyd has thrown for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve met with our seniors and talked about the peaks and valleys of our season thus far,” Kissack said. “We’ve talked about developing more consistency. I think we’ve played really well for stretches, but there are other times where we haven’t played as well as we’re capable of… We have a great rotation of backs right now and I think the ball can go to any of those four kids back there. That’s been a very bright spot for us and we’ve been able to move the ball effectively, which has allowed us to utilize some different formations and try new things.”

Juniors Trey Taft and Landon DeLille have combined for 452 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with Taft averaging 6.7 yards per carry and DeLille recording 6 yards per carry. Junior Cody Stover-Cullum has 134 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. Senior Tanner Lager has been Rochelle’s top wide receiver, catching seven passes for 65 yards.

Defensively, Rochelle has allowed an average of 23.8 points and 244 total yards per game. Junior Jaden Cook has emerged as a key playmaker on the defensive line, leading the Hubs with two sacks. Gensler and Taft are Rochelle’s leading tacklers with 18 and 17 tackles, respectively. The Hubs will hit the road after hosting Marengo, taking on Kaneland and Plano on Oct. 8 and Oct. 15 before closing out the season with Senior Night against Sandwich on Oct. 22.

“I think we’ve had some tough matchups and we’re young at some key positions,” Kissack said. “Those kids will get better every week. Our inside six kids have played really well up to this point and those kids get a lot of work during the week against our offense and our scout team. We need to get better on the back end because we’re going to see some teams over the next few weeks that like to throw the ball around. We have some growing to do for sure.”

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