ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub offense has kicked into high gear after being humbled during the opening week of the season, where the purple and white mustered only 14 points and were held without a rushing touchdown against the Woodstock Blue Streaks. Looking to build on consecutive 40-plus scoring performances against Herscher and Johnsburg, Rochelle’s offense continued its recent dominance during Friday evening’s conference matchup against Harvard.
The Hubs rushed for nearly 400 yards while averaging 13 yards per carry as Rochelle cruised over the Hornets 47-13 to start the season with a 4-0 record for the first time since 2013. The Hubs (4-0, 2-0 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue) will return home next week for their Homecoming contest against the Sycamore Spartans, who rank No. 4 in IHSA Class 5A.
“We feel like our effort in practice is showing on the field,” senior lineman Jaden Cook said. “We’re coming together as a team and we’re playing as a more cohesive unit. We’re getting off the ball a lot better than we were before and our battles in practice have helped us a lot. We spent a lot of time watching film and we know where our mistakes are and how to fix them.”
Rochelle received the opening kickoff and moved the ball effectively, capping off an eight-play, 57-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from senior tailback Garrett Gensler, who rushed for a team-high 181 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Harvard moved the ball effectively on its opening drive as well, but a fourth-and-goal stand from the Hub defense at its own 4-yard line resulted in a turnover on downs for the Hornets and a first down for Rochelle.
“Our coaches have been giving us good looks during practice,” Cook said. “We watch film almost every day during practice and I think that’s definitely helped us on the defensive end. We have to get after Sycamore next week and be nasty on the line of scrimmage. We have to win the battle up front and we have to come in with the mindset that we want to destroy them.”
Senior wingback Trey Taft turned Rochelle’s defensive stand into points, breaking loose off the left side of the offensive line for a 60-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. After the Hubs forced a punt early in the second quarter, Taft found the end zone for a second time, running for an 18-yard touchdown off the left side. Taft finished with 105 rushing yards on only five carries.
“I feel like Week 1 really humbled us and we’ve continued to climb from there,” Taft said. “We’ve been working a lot harder and we’ve been a lot more physical. We’ve cleaned up our blocking during practice and we’ve been competing really hard against each other. We know Sycamore has a very dynamic team and we have to play well and take advantage of their mistakes.”
Gensler ran in his second touchdown of the evening late in the second quarter, taking an option carry from senior quarterback Hayden Inman for a 14-yard score to help give the Hubs a 25-0 halftime lead. Harvard received the second-half kickoff, but the Hornets were once again forced to punt to start the third quarter. Rochelle held the Hornets scoreless until the fourth quarter, where running back Landon Barnett rushed for two touchdowns to help Harvard avoid a shutout.
Gensler and Taft worked together to give the Hubs a 33-0 lead midway through the third quarter, with Gensler rushing for a 12-yard touchdown and Taft cashing in the 2-point conversion Rochelle’s final touchdown of the night came late in the fourth quarter, where junior Tommy Tourdot knifed through the Harvard defense for an 8-yard score after maneuvering through the defense for a 28-yard rush earlier in the drive. Tourdot led the Hubs with eight tackles.