ROCHELLE — The Rochelle varsity football team will be looking to shock some people when the Hubs take the field for their first game of the 2019 season in less than three weeks.
Rochelle graduated a large portion of its roster from this past season, but the Hubs are confident they can prove their mettle as the team gears up for its opener against Pekin on Friday, Aug. 30. The Hubs, who are seeking their fourth straight postseason appearance and their second under head coach Kyle Kissack, will make their Interstate Eight Conference debut against Morris on Friday, Sept. 13.
“I really want us to surprise people,” senior quarterback Ethan Etes said. “I’m excited to try our best and do a lot of things that people believe we can’t do… We have a strong running game and we’ve been working on passing the ball a lot. Our seniors really want to shock people and we want to win a lot of games. We have to work harder than we ever have before.”
The Hubs will have a tough path to the playoffs, as the purple and white will kick off the 2019 season with three consecutive road games (Pekin, Johnsburg and Morris) before hosting LaSalle-Peru for their home opener on Sept. 20. The Rochelle schedule contains only four teams (Johnsburg, Kaneland, Sycamore and Plano) that reached the postseason this past year.
“I’m looking forward to grinding and we worked really hard over the summer,” senior lineman Charlie Jandak said. “We’re putting all of the building blocks together… We’re definitely not going to be the biggest guys up front, but we’re going to be the hardest working guys. Our speed will be a strength, and we have guys who are coming out here and hitting every day.”
Rochelle will field a plethora of new starters on offense including Etes, who takes over as the team’s third quarterback in three seasons. Seniors Gavin Ansteth, Austin Greifenkamp and junior Ben Harvey will get carries out of the backfield, and Jandak returns to lead the offensive line after earning NIB-12 All-Conference honors in 2018.
“I’m really excited for the season,” Ansteth said. “It’s like a new team without all the seniors from last year… We’re going to be strong offensively, and we’re continuing to work on our defense. We want to win as many games as we can, and we’re coming to practice every day to work on the things we need to have done for the season.”
Several new starters will also take the field on defense, with Jandak expected to contribute largely after recording three tackles-for-loss and a team-high three sacks in 2018. Greifenkamp and senior Nick Albers have been earning reps at the linebacker positions alongside Ansteth and Harvey, while senior corner Keegan Davis-Carter will lead the secondary after finishing sixth on the team in tackles and recording one interception last season.