Football: Neece leading the charge for Hub defense

Senior Gabe Neece led Rochelle with nine tackles in the varsity football team’s season opener against Morris. (Photo by Marcy DeLille)

Senior linebacker shines in Rochelle's season-opener against Morris

With his team locked in a double-overtime battle against the Ottawa Pirates, Gabe Neece earned an opportunity to deliver one final victory for his senior teammates as the Rochelle Hub varsity football team looked to finish the 2019 season with an Interstate 8 Conference win.

Neece had already rushed for one touchdown during regulation, but the two-way standout was called on to carry the football in each of the team’s overtime possessions. Neece successfully broke through the goal line on both drives, ending the game with a career-high three rushing touchdowns while adding four tackles as the Hubs outlasted the Pirates 40-34 on the road. It was the highlight of the season for Neece, who returns as a senior starter for Rochelle this year.

“I thought I proved myself toward the end of last season,” Neece said. “My favorite moment definitely was the last game of the year. I’ve definitely improved the most in trusting myself. I used to be very hesitant in making decisions, but not anymore. I want to continue working on the mental side of the game. I’m going to play the best football I can to help my team win.”

Neece started at inside linebacker for the Hubs during their season-opener against Morris this past Saturday, totaling a team-high nine tackles despite the loss. The senior also recorded a second-half interception that preceded teammate Ben Harvey’s rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter. After nearly 18 months off the field, Neece feels confident in his abilities.

“I thought I played pretty well considering we hadn’t played a football game in almost 500 days,” Neece said. “I was happy with my performance overall. I think my role this season will be the same as my teammates in that everyone has a job to do in order for our team to succeed.”

A four-year member of the RTHS football team, Neece has been involved with the sport since taking up flag football with the Rochelle Junior Tackle program. Neece, who has taken a more serious approach to football since his childhood, said he enjoys the brotherhood of the sport.

“I think we have the skills to be one of the top teams in the conference this year,” Neece said.

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