GALESBURG — The Rochelle varsity football players knew they couldn’t leave Galesburg High School without a victory Friday night. Behind multiple first-half touchdowns, the Hubs took control of the nonconference contest immediately, and Rochelle coasted in the second half to beat the Silver Streaks by a score of 36-8 to improve to 1-2 overall.
Seniors Eddie Villalobos and Noah Knight each found the end zone twice in the first half, and Rochelle went 3-for-4 in 2-point conversions. Senior Louie Mancinas added a key interception that led to Rochelle’s final touchdown of the first half. The victory is Rochelle’s first under new head coach Kyle Kissack.
“Coach Kissack has been preaching to us all week that this is like a playoff week,” Villalobos said. “We’re taking things one week at a time and we need five wins. We don’t have any easy games over the rest of the season… I told the guys to forget our first two losses and play like we’re 0-0 right now.”
After forcing Galesburg (0-3) to punt on its first possession, the Hubs scored first on a 14-yard touchdown rush by Villalobos. Rochelle carried a 6-0 lead into the second quarter, when the Hubs quickly put the game out of Galesburg’s reach with 24 unanswered points. Knight’s 5-yard touchdown run preceded senior Andrew Johnson’s 2-point conversion to give Rochelle a 14-0 advantage with 9:23 remaining in the second quarter.
“We’re learning how to deal with adversity and how to focus on going one play at a time,” Knight said. “We didn’t change much up offensively but we were able to play our game. When we’re playing Rochelle football, we’re playing hard and we’re hitting the other team fast. There was a different atmosphere in our locker room today.”
Knight broke through a big hole on the right side for a 64-yard touchdown before Rochelle added the 2-point conversion to lead 22-0 with 5:43 to go in the second quarter. Galesburg went to its passing game to try and score before halftime, but Mancinas intercepted an errant pass by Galesburg quarterback Connor Aten and ran the ball into Galesburg’s red zone.
Villalobos then scored on an 11-yard rush off the left side before Johnson added another 2-point conversion. The Hubs struggled to run the football against Johnsburg this past weekend, totaling only 92 rushing yards, but Rochelle pounded the football early and often against the Silver Streaks on Friday.
“We were getting off the ball,” Villalobos said. “We were running hard, and when we get that big run it helps build our momentum. We get going, and I think we just need that spark to get going. We found that tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Rochelle defense accepted the challenge after struggling over the team’s first two games this season. Aten’s 9-yard rushing touchdown and his ensuing 2-point conversion in the third quarter were the only positives mustered by the Galesburg offense Friday night. Junior Gavin Ansteth helped Rochelle capitalize off a late Galesburg turnover in the fourth quarter, scoring his first touchdown of the season to cap off a solid victory for the Hubs.
“We came out really strong and we had worked really hard in practice all week,” senior linebacker Larry Beck said. “We knew what we had to do and it showed in the game. We did a better job of wrapping up and finishing the play. This was a huge win for us, and we’re going to use this to practice harder and have an even better week.”
Rochelle will host Geneseo next Friday for its first matchup in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West this season.
The Rochelle fresh-soph football team remained unbeaten on Friday, defeating Galesburg by a score of 51-14 to improve to 3-0 overall. Sophomore Gabe Neece got the Hubs started with a 60-yard run in the game, and Neece finished with 100 yards rushing and one interception returned for a Rochelle touchdown.
Freshman Owen Angell scored four touchdowns on Friday, while freshman Eric Briseno added one touchdown. Freshman Cam Ajazi scored one touchdown and led the Hubs on defense with 12 total tackles.