Football: Hubs turn potential into productive nine-win season

The Rochelle Hub varsity football team finished 9-3 this season, reaching the IHSA Playoffs for the third time in five years. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle reaches playoffs for third time in five years

ROCHELLE — An even distribution of sophomore, junior and senior players led to the Rochelle Hub varsity football team’s first nine-win season since 2004 and the program’s first berth in the IHSA Playoff Quarterfinals since 2017. With starters on both sides of the ball eligible to return next season, head coach Kyle Kissack will be looking to turn that potential into production.

Rochelle finished with a 9-3 overall record while placing second in the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue Division with a 4-1 conference record. The Hubs reached the playoffs for the second consecutive season and have now clinched postseason berths in three of the last five seasons since Kissack took over as head coach. Rochelle averaged 36.1 points per game and leaned on its traditional wing-T rushing attack, which averaged exactly 358 yards per game on the ground.

“This group was special because we had almost an equal amount of contributions from the senior, junior and sophomore classes,” Kissack said. “It was a really unique team and the kids bonded really well during the summertime. They fought for each other throughout the season.”

Seniors Garrett Gensler and Trey Taft each eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground, with Gensler rushing for 1,727 yards and 29 touchdowns while Taft ran for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sophomore Erich Metzger and senior Cody Cullum combined for 1,103 yards and 11 touchdowns from the fullback position. Taft led the Hubs with 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while senior David Gerber followed with 176 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Senior Hayden Inman threw for 419 yards and five touchdowns from the quarterback position.

“We continued to build on what we’ve installed over the last few seasons,” Kissack said. “We had multiple three-year starters on offense and we had a lot of different things available to us. Having two backs exceed 1,000 yards is a big deal and what’s really important is that, with the brand of football we play, our backs need to block when they aren’t carrying the ball. I’m really proud of how unselfish this group was and they really embodied the standard of the program.”

Junior Brock Metzger led the defense with 70 tackles and five tackles for loss. Garrett Gensler added 47 tackles, while sophomore Grant Gensler recorded 37 tackles and finished with a team-leading four interceptions. Sophomore Kaiden Morris compiled 36 tackles as well as a team-high three sacks and two fumble recoveries to lead Rochelle on the defensive line. 

Senior Landon DeLille totaled 27 tackles including a team-high six tackles for loss. Junior Tommy Tourdot and sophomore Xavier Villalobos each recorded 30 tackles, with Villalobos securing three interceptions during Rochelle’s first-round overtime playoff win against Dixon. Metzger compiled 32 tackles and senior Aidan Rodriguez added 28 tackles with an interception.

“I saw a lot of growth on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season,” Kissack said. “We dealt with some injuries and we faced some tough offenses, but we were able to be creative and we continued to grow. Our kids absorbed a lot of information on a week-to-week basis and they adjusted really well. They really embraced how we wanted to play defense. We rotated a lot of young players up front and those kids earned a lot of valuable experience.”

The Hubs will lose seven senior starters on offense including linemen Jaden Cook, Bradley Cooney, John Green and Aidan Darby as well as Inman, Gensler and Taft in the backfield. Rochelle will lose two senior cornerbacks (Rodriguez and Gerber) as well as three senior linebackers (Gensler, Taft and Cullum) and three senior linemen (Cooney, DeLille and Raul Aguirre) on defense. DeLille and Inman handled kicking and punting duties, respectively.

“It’s important that our kids remain humble,” Kissack said. “We miss opportunities to get better when we start feeling good about ourselves. One of our consistent messages to the kids is that potential doesn’t really mean a lot. It’s more about what the kids can produce with that potential. We talk about making decisions on a day-to-day basis that help make our team the best it can be. I’m looking forward to getting back together and seeing what we can accomplish in 2023.”