Football: Hubs ready to build on eight-win season

Junior Bradley Cooney is one of several two-way starters eligible to return to the Rochelle Hub varsity football team next season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle reaches second round of playoffs, compiles best overall record since 2004

ROCHELLE — A tough second-round playoff loss against Chicago (St. Patrick) didn’t diminish what the Rochelle Hub varsity football team was able to accomplish this season. After finishing 8-3 overall and placing second in the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue Division with a 5-1 record, head coach Kyle Kissack and the Hubs are eager to build on this season’s achievements.

In a season that featured seven consecutive wins, Rochelle reached the second round of the IHSA Playoffs for the first time since 2017 and compiled its best overall record since 2004. Despite two forfeit victories, Rochelle’s offense rushed for nearly 3,000 yards while averaging 32.3 points per game and 269.7 rushing yards per game. The Hubs totaled 41 touchdowns and 205 first downs while converting 79.4 percent (27-of-34) of their fourth-down attempts.

“What I really enjoyed about our group this season was their selfless desire to play for one another,” Kissack said. “Our kids made a decision early on during summer camp when we had only 20-something players on the varsity roster and they bought in and sold out for each other. When we look at our season as a whole, our kids succeeded because of their selfless nature.”

The Hubs will return four junior running backs next season including Garrett Gensler (925 yards, 20 touchdowns), Trey Taft (759 yards, six touchdowns), Cody Stover-Cullum (684 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Landon DeLille (291 yards, two touchdowns). Rochelle will lose some of its senior leaders including quarterback Josh Lloyd (383 total yards, three touchdown passes) and tight end Ethan Wells (one touchdown) as well as linemen Brodie Nantz and Grant Messer.

“We had a number of younger kids playing some significant positions,” Kissack said. “We paired those kids with seniors who had two or three years of varsity experience and I thought they really blended well together. We’re really going to miss our seniors and the amount of time and energy they invested into our program. Filling their shoes won’t be easy.”

Rochelle’s defense held opponents to 21.3 points per game and 211.5 yards per game. Four Hubs tied for the team lead with 38 tackles including senior linebacker Tanner Lager and senior defensive end Braden Alfano, who will each depart along with senior lineman Marco Castro (18 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery). The Hubs will lose two starters in the secondary including safety Josh Lloyd (28 tackles) and corner Nate Burdin (12 tackles).

Rochelle will return several juniors, however, including linemen Jaden Cook (19 tackles, two sacks) and Bradley Cooney (nine tackles, two sacks) as well as freshman Kaiden Morris (two sacks). Gensler (38 tackles), Stover-Cullum (38 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery) and Taft (27 tackles) will all return at linebacker, while junior Aidan Rodriguez (17 tackles, one interception, one breakup) could become the team’s top cornerback next season.

“Our defense really matured as the season went on,” Kissack said. “We spend a lot of time over the summer building on defense and with the number of different looks we see, it’s important for our kids to get a lot of reps. We pushed through the first portion of our season and I was impressed with how our defense played and finished the season this year.”