ROCHELLE — By the time Rochelle settled down and found its rhythm against the Kaneland Knights on Friday, it was far too late for the Hubs to recover on a dreary Homecoming evening at the Douglas A. Creason Athletic Complex.
The Kaneland offense exploded for four first-quarter touchdowns and six first-half scores to defeat the Hubs 42-14 and drop Rochelle to 1-4 on the season. While the Knights only outgained the Hubs by 7 yards (226-219), Kaneland averaged 8.7 yards per play while Rochelle was held to an average of 4.5 yards per play.
“We need to use tonight as a growth experience,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “When you have a young group of kids who are maturing as we play through the season, we’re going to get into situations where we’re facing an explosive offense and a really solid defense. We have to be ready to go from the start.”
Kaneland needed only two players to take the lead, as quarterback Joe Smith’s 25-yard pass to wide receiver Max Gagne set up running back Jack McIntire’s 36-yard rush to the end zone. Rochelle punted on its first possession after Kaneland’s Connor Collins sacked senior Ethan Etes on a third-down play. The Knights then scored on their first play from scrimmage when Smith found wide receiver Sam Gagne for a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Another Rochelle punt allowed the Kaneland offense to go 3-for-3 on scoring drives, with the third culminating on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Smith to wide receiver Colton Doll with 6:01 remaining in the first quarter. Leading 21-0, the Knights attempted and recovered an onside kick, leading to 48-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Max Gagne. Smith went 10-for-11 passing with 159 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
The Hubs turned the ball over on downs near the end of the first quarter, and Kaneland’s first play of the second quarter was a 3-yard rushing touchdown from McIntire to help make it 35-0 Knights. Rochelle’s second straight fourth-down turnover led to Kaneland’s final scoring drive, capped off by a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Smith. The Hubs compiled their best offensive sequence before halftime, a 15-play drive resulting in a third turnover on downs.
“Once we settled in during the second quarter… We put together a nice drive,” Kissack said. “Against good teams, it can’t take 18 minutes to settle in.”
While the first half was one to forget, the second half was something Rochelle can build on as it prepares for Week 6 against Sandwich next Friday. Junior Ben Harvey broke free off the left side for a 51-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter, and sophomore Cam Ajazi added a 25-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Harvey and senior Nick Albers led the Rochelle defense with three tackles each in the loss.
“I thought Nick played with tremendous effort tonight,” Kissack said. “There are always positives, but there are a lot of things we need to clean up and get better at.”