Football: Manning shines as Hubs dominate Johnsburg

Freshman Dylan Manning rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns in his first varsity game Friday evening, when the Rochelle Hubs shut out the Johnsburg Skyhawks 48-0. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Freshman runs for 102 yards and three touchdowns in 48-0 victory

ROCHELLE — Freshman Dylan Manning was rushing for touchdowns on the fresh-soph football team one week ago. When the Rochelle Hub varsity football team hosted Johnsburg on Friday evening, however, Manning earned his chance to showcase his skills at a higher level.

Playing in his first varsity game and receiving his first varsity start at wingback, Manning showed tremendous confidence and vision out of the backfield, rushing for 102 yards on 10 carries and scoring three touchdowns as the Hubs dominated the Skyhawks 48-0 to kick off the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference Blue Division schedule. It’s the second shutout in three games for the Hubs (2-1, 1-0 I-8/KRC Blue), who will travel for a road contest at Harvard next Friday.

“I was a little nervous, but I trusted my team and I knew they would block for me,” Manning said. “It was really special and I loved the experience… We had some great blocks. I saw giant holes and I ran through them. I’m just trying my hardest and doing what I can to help our team win.”

Rochelle rumbled for 404 rushing yards while holding the Skyhawks, who entered with a 2-0 record and 65 points over their first two games, to only 124 total yards. The Hubs took the first-half kickoff and moved right down the field, scoring on a 31-yard touchdown run from junior Grant Gensler, who torched the Johnsburg defense for 204 rushing yards and three scores. 

With the offense clicking from the start, Rochelle saw its defense record two fourth-down stops in a row to stall the Skyhawk offense in the opening quarter. The Hubs capitalized on their early defensive success, scoring on a 26-yard touchdown run and a 10-yard touchdown run from the freshman wingback Manning, who helped Rochelle take a 20-0 lead late in the first quarter.

“We’ve been keying up our defense and I know I have a great player over the top of me,” said senior cornerback Tommy Tourdot, who nabbed two of the team’s three interceptions in the win. “We really put in the work this week and we played with a different mentality than we had last week. We were humbled and our coaches got on us about how we thought we’d have an easy win last week. We were punched in the mouth and it’s on us to respond and stay locked in.”

Tourdot snagged his first interception late in the first quarter, stepping in front of his receiver and grabbing a throw from Johnsburg quarterback AJ Bravieri near the Skyhawk sideline. Rochelle cashed in on its next drive, with Manning running off the left side for a 5-yard touchdown rush. A three-and-out on Johnsburg’s ensuing possession set the Skyhawks back even further, as the Hubs needed only one play to score again, this time on a 62-yard touchdown run from Gensler.

Trailing 36-0 late in the second quarter, Johnsburg received a brief glimmer of hope, as a three-and-out led to a muffed punt return that enabled the Skyhawks to keep their drive alive. But another errant pass from Bravieri landed in the hands of Tourdot, who once again gained position on his receiver to make the play. Rochelle converted the turnover into points, with Gensler capping off an excellent opening half with a 33-yard touchdown run off the right side.

“On that first interception, I had been getting beat on that play all summer,” Tourdot said. “I knew that play would eventually come out during a game and I just dropped back, took my read steps and made a play on the ball. The second interception, I was keying up the quarterback and I could tell where he wanted to go. I went up and hoped for the best and I made the play again… This was a good win after last week and I think it shows the guys that we can do this.”

Rochelle’s 42-0 halftime lead resulted in a fast final two quarters, where the Hubs iced their win with a third-quarter interception by junior Xavier Villalobos and a fourth-quarter rushing score from senior Riley Damask, who bounced outside of the left tackle for a 2-yard touchdown. Sophomore Brode Metzger led the defense with eight tackles, while senior Brock Metzger had four tackles and junior Kaiden Morris recorded one sack.

Sophomores Gavin Neale and Roman Villalobos combined for 68 rushing yards, with Neale adding three tackles on defense.