Football: Hubs win second straight overtime thriller with Ottawa

The Rochelle Hub varsity football team celebrated Senior Night on Friday, defeating the Ottawa Pirates in overtime for the second straight season. Above from left to right are seniors Ivan Pineda, Grant Thompson, Connor DiSimoni, Mike Schlenbecker, Spencer Warborg, Ben Harvey, Noah Messer, Keith Holland, Ethan Albers, Nolan Morrissette, Gabe Neece, Crue Larsen and Blake Haley. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Larsen runs for 123 yards, four touchdowns in 39-38 Senior Night victory

ROCHELLE — Senior Night is meant for making memories, and that’s what Rochelle senior Crue Larsen and his teammates set out to do when the Hub varsity football team hosted Ottawa for its final Interstate 8 Conference matchup of the shortened spring season Friday evening.

Normally the team’s starting free safety, Larsen received a chance to play both ways on Friday, earning reps in the offensive backfield when the Hubs and Pirates squared off in their double-overtime rematch from 2019. Making the most of his opportunity, Larsen rushed for a team-high 123 yards, scoring not only his first touchdown of the season, but three more including one in overtime that ultimately helped decide Rochelle’s 39-38 victory over Ottawa.   

“We had a pretty tough season, but this was our last time on this field and we wanted this win,” Larsen said. “We gave everything we had and we finished tonight. My coaches gave me a chance to play at running back this week and I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. I gave my all on every play and I ran as hard as I could. Everything seemed to line up for me.”

Rochelle (2-4) and Ottawa (0-6) combined for 735 yards Friday night, with both teams trading touchdowns throughout the contest. The Pirates capitalized on their first drive, melting nearly eight minutes off the clock before running back Bryant Schomas plowed forward on a 5-yard touchdown rush. The Hubs responded with a lengthy scoring drive of their own, carrying the ball into the second quarter and tying the game 8-8 on a 2-yard touchdown and 2-point conversion from Larsen, both coming on toss plays outside the right edge of the line.

Rochelle forced the first turnover of the night, when junior defensive tackle Marco Castro intercepted a pass from Ottawa quarterback Braiden Miller. The turnover set Rochelle up on another scoring drive, culminating with a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Larsen. Junior quarterback Josh Lloyd then found senior tight end Ethan Albers for the 2-point pass.  

Still in the second quarter, Ottawa evened the score at 16-16 after Schomas punched in a 1-yard rush for the second of his three touchdowns on the evening and added the 2-point run. After the Pirates stopped the Hubs on a fourth-down rushing attempt, Ottawa pulled a trick play, running a wide-receiver reverse pass and scoring on a 51-yard touchdown connection between Briar Naggs and Ryan DeMoss. Schomas converted the 2-poin run to make it 24-16.

Despite trailing at halftime, Rochelle received the ball to start the third quarter, stringing together a seven-play scoring drive that resulted in a 2-yard rushing touchdown from senior Ben Harvey, who finished with 109 yards on the ground. With the game tied 24-24 after a 2-point run from Hub sophomore Garrett Gensler, Rochelle forced a second Ottawa turnover, with junior linebacker Tanner Lager intercepting Miller’s pass inside the Hub end zone.  

But the Pirates managed to stop Rochelle on another fourth-down rushing attempt, capitalizing with a six-play drive that finished with a 1-yard Schomas touchdown run and 2-point conversion. Down 32-24, the Hubs turned to Larsen on their next drive, and the senior delivered with a 1-yard touchdown and 2-point rush with 4:10 remaining in the game.

After the Hubs forced two incompletions to turn the ball over on downs, Rochelle saw its last chance to score in regulation dashed in the final seconds, when Pirate defender Jake Serby intercepted a Lloyd pass over the middle intended for Larsen. The turnover set the stage for overtime, where Ottawa took the ball first and scored on a miraculous fourth-down passing attempt, which saw Serby bobble the ball in traffic before securing it for a 4-yard touchdown.

But while both teams were a combined 8-for-8 on 2-point plays heading into overtime, Ottawa failed to convert on the ninth 2-point try of the night, allowing Rochelle to win with a touchdown and an extra point. Larsen answered the call for the Hubs once again, diving forward on a 1-yard touchdown that tied the game at 38-38. Castro then went on to kick the extra point, drilling the ball through the uprights as Hub players and fans stormed the field.

“I thought we made the most of our season,” Larsen said. “We had a tough schedule this year, but we stuck together through it all and we finished the season with a win. Everybody stuck together throughout the whole game, even when we were down at halftime. We did what we had to do to come back. It feels really good to get this win tonight for all of the seniors.”

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