Football: Rochelle preparing to face stout Johnsburg defense

Junior Ben Harvey (right) follows his blockers during Rochelle’s varsity football game at Pekin. Harvey and the Hubs will have a tough test when Rochelle faces Johnsburg on the road Friday night. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Hubs (1-0) seeking revenge after 2018 home loss against Skyhawks (0-1)

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle football team showed its ability to compete with the bigger schools after the Class 4A Hubs downed the Class 7A Pekin Dragons on the road Friday night. Head coach Kyle Kissack and the varsity squad are looking forward to another tough matchup this week, as the Hubs will face the Johnsburg Skyhawks in another critical nonconference battle.

Rochelle dominated the clock against Pekin, controlling the football for nearly 35 minutes and totaling over 350 yards on offense. Kissack said he was eager to see how his young players competed against the Dragons, and he was pleased with how the Hubs overcame some first-half adversity to start the season 1-0.

“I was happy with how our kids responded,” Kissack said. “I was anxious to see how we’d compete… We found ourselves in some situations where we needed to be resilient and our kids did that. We were able to control the line of scrimmage which is always favorable for us and the type of football we want to play. That speaks to the patience and the maturity level of our kids.”

Rochelle and Johnsburg are meeting in Week 2 for the fourth consecutive season. The Skyhawks and Hubs have played each other four times since 2016 including the second round of the 2017 IHSA Class 4A Playoffs, where Rochelle upset top-seeded Johnsburg on its home field. The Skyhawks exacted revenge on the Hubs in 2018, however, winning 21-7 at Rochelle.

“They play great defense,” Kissack said. “Watching them on film, they’re a team that swarms to the football and they play downhill with great speed. They’re very physical at the point of attack, and in watching film this week, they’re a very fast and physical defensive unit. Historically, they’ve defended us well.”

Johnsburg (0-1) suffered a tough loss against Marian Central this past week, falling 3-0 in a defensive showdown. The Skyhawks were one vote away from receiving AP Top-10 standing in Class 4A Preseason Poll, and they’ll be looking to rally behind playmaking quarterback Max Kegel and inside linebacker Justin Peake to earn their first victory of the season.

“Their inside linebackers and their 9-techniques are really good football players,” Kissack said. “Peake has started for three years, and defensively they have a very solid unit. Our kids will have to execute, and when we’re playing against an aggressive defense, we have to execute our blocks effectively to have success.”


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