ROCHELLE — Ten members of the Rochelle varsity football team earned All-Conference First Team recognition from the Northern Illinois Big 12 West for their efforts this season.
The foundation for Rochelle’s success on offense began with the offensive line, and three Hubs were recognized as All-Conference First Team players including senior tackle Will Jandak and guard Luis Silva. Jandak received All-Conference honors last season, while Silva will take home the award for the first time.
“I’m honored to be recognized as an All-Conference player and I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and my teammates,” Jandak said. “I was pushed to get better during every practice… I’ll miss being able to play football with all of my teammates. They are truly my brothers and it’s hard to realize that I won’t ever play football with them again.”
“I’m very blessed for the opportunity and I’m thankful for the coaches that helped me through my four years as a Hub,” Silva added. “I was not afraid to ask my teammates what to do in certain situations and I was able to help others out throughout the year and it felt great… My teammates mean a lot to me and they pushed me to become who I am today.”
Junior guard Charlie Jandak also received All-Conference First Team honors for the first time, and Jandak is the only Rochelle junior to make the NIB-12 West First Team. Jandak will be looking to fill his older brother Will’s shoes on the offensive line next season.
“I was very excited to find out that I earned All-Conference this year,” Jandak said. “It was one of my goals to earn the award as a junior because my brother earned it as a junior last year. I think I improved at communicating this year, and talking with the guys in the huddle and right before the snap of the ball was huge for me.”
Seniors Eddie Villalobos and Brandon Johnson were named All-Conference First Team running backs this year, compiling well over 1,000 yards of offense for the Hubs. Villalobos totaled 1,082 yards and 17 touchdowns while Johnson added 731 yards and eight touchdowns. Johnson was also named the All-Conference First Team punter for the second time in two years.
“I feel honored that my hard work was noticed and that I was awarded for my efforts on the field,” Johnson said. “I definitely improved at running the ball and getting my pads down… I will miss playing with my brothers under the lights every Friday night.”
“I think I improved mentally at being able to overcome adversity even in some low points where things weren’t looking good for us,” Villalobos followed. “I’ll miss being a role model for all of the kids below me and being somebody that many kids look up to. I’ll miss seeing the kids run up to me in town and showing me love.”
Senior tackles Edwin Vega and James Hart were named All-Conference First Team defensive linemen for the first time this fall. Vega recorded 54 tackles and one fumble recovery for the Hubs, and Hart served as an instrumental two-way player as both a starting center and defensive tackle.
“It feels amazing and it shows that all of my hard work paid off,” Hart said. “Our conference is filled with some great players so I feel honored to be mentioned with some of those athletes. I think I improved my physicality and my ability to control the line of scrimmage. I felt like I was able to control the guys in front of me and be more physical than everybody else.”
“I’m really proud of myself for earning All-Conference on the defensive line,” Vega added. “I worked really hard this year after missing my junior year to an injury. I think I improved on playing to the whistle, watching the ball and firing low off the ball to make big plays and stop the other team’s drives.”
Rochelle named two linebackers to the All-Conference First Team including seniors Larry Beck and Greg Ricketts, who are each first-time winners. Beck led the Hubs with 70 tackles while adding two sacks, and Ricketts provided tough matchups for opposing teams with his abilities in run stopping and pass coverage.
“It’s a blessing to receive All-Conference honors,” Ricketts said. “We play in one of the toughest conference around with some of the best players around… This season I tried to focus on being mentally prepared every week. I made sure to have great pre-snap routines that would put me in the best positions to succeed.”
“I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates for helping me throughout the whole season,” Beck followed. “Without them I wouldn’t have earned this award. I improved the most on breaking down and tackling throughout the season. I’ll miss the team and my coaches the most because we worked so hard together.”
Rounding out this year’s All-Conference First Team honorees from Rochelle is senior Noah Knight, who was named as a defensive back this season. Knight led the Hubs with three interceptions on defense, and he also recorded 703 rushing yards on offense with nine touchdowns.
“I think it’s a really nice and humbling honor to have other coaches recognize me considering the toughness of our conference,” Knight said. “I think my confidence improved and I felt I was able to play on another level… The one thing I’ll miss about Rochelle football is the bond and the memories I formed throughout the years.”