ROCHELLE — The Rochelle varsity football team will honor roughly 20 senior players this Friday when the Hubs host unbeaten Sterling for its annual Senior Night game, which will be the final regular season home gave for the purple and white.
Sterling (6-0, 2-0 NIB-12 West) entered this week ranked No. 3 in Class 5A by the Associated Press, and the Golden Warriors have faced minimal competition this season, outscoring opponents 264-60 over six games. Rochelle (3-3, 2-0 NIB-12 West) had its three-game winning streak snapped by Yorkville this past Friday, and the Hubs will be looking to bounce back in what could be the deciding game of the Northern Illinois Big 12 West Conference.
“It’s a great challenge for our program to have the opportunity to compete for a conference championship,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “It’s an opportunity that doesn’t present itself very often… It’s something special for the program, and these seniors have given just about everything they can give to the football program over the last four years.”
The Golden Warriors have emerged as one of the elite football programs in Class 5A over the last three seasons. Sterling has compiled a 29-2 record dating back to Week 1 of the 2016 season, and Kissack said the Golden Warriors challenge opponents by utilizing space and playing quickly on defense. Only one team (Kaneland) has scored double-digit points (24) against Sterling this year.
“They use space very well and they get the ball to kids in space,” Kissack said. “They’re very fast and physical on defense. Those two things really present some unique challenges, and those are things we don’t necessarily see every week… They’re a very respectable team and program, one that we look at as admirable.”
Sterling has dominated Rochelle over the last two seasons, winning 35-7 at Rochelle in 2016 before downing the Hubs 41-6 last year. Rochelle hasn’t defeated the Golden Warriors since 2013, when the Hubs cruised over Sterling 58-21 at home.
“We run different schemes offensively and defensively but both teams are always physical,” Kissack said. “We’ve been playing well over the last few weeks and I think we played a really good first half of football against Yorkville. I’ll be looking for our kids to compete on Friday night and play hard. We need to be downhill on defense.”
Second halves have been a sore spot for the Hubs this season. Rochelle has surrendered 27 second-half points in back-to-back games, and the Hubs haven’t outscored an opponent in the second half all season. Rochelle trails opponents 105-66 in second halves this year.
“We need to execute when we’re given the opportunities,” Kissack said. “At times, we put ourselves in negative situations because of that. We need to take care of what we can take care of.”