SANDWICH — Friday was a must-win scenario for the Rochelle football team, and the Hubs responded by putting together their best offensive performance of the season against the Sandwich Indians in conference play.
Five offensive players scored touchdowns including senior Gavin Ansteth, who led the rushing attack with 105 yards and two scores as the Hubs defeated Sandwich 42-28 to reach 2-4 on the season and keep their postseason dreams alive. Junior Ben Harvey compiled a team-high 112 rushing yards, and Rochelle finished with 399 total yards in the victory.
“We knew what the stakes were,” senior Austin Greifenkamp said. “We needed to beat Sandwich… We worked hard all week and we got the job done. We have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions and we were able to stick together and get our work done.”
Senior linebacker Nick Albers stopped Sandwich running back James Coleman short on a fourth-and-3 rushing attempt to give Rochelle the football toward the end of the first quarter. The Hubs turned the possession into points with a 73-yard scoring drive culminating in a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Greifenkamp.
A tipped pass from Sandwich quarterback Jack Theurer led to an interception by Ansteth on the ensuing Indians drive. Harvey sprung a 29-yard rush off the left side on the first play after the turnover before running the following play 3 yards into the end zone. Trailing 14-0, Coleman brought Sandwich back with a 73-yard rushing touchdown on an end-around play.
The Indians struggled to contain the Rochelle offense throughout the first half, and their woes continued after the Hubs pieced together a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. Ansteth found the end zone on a 4-yard rush to make it a 21-7 game, and the score remained the same entering halftime.
Sandwich attempted to swing momentum with an onside kick attempt to open the third quarter, but Rochelle junior Ethan Albers was all over the football on the recovery. The failed attempt resulted in a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive from the Hubs, with Ansteth running for a 1-yard touchdown to put Rochelle ahead 28-7.
Another special teams blunder from the Indians occurred soon after, when a bad snap on fourth down soared over the punter’s head and put Rochelle in the red zone. Sophomore Eric Briseno took advantage of the field position, running in a 1-yard score for his first-ever varsity touchdown to give the Hubs a 35-7 advantage.
Needing a huge play to stay in the game, Coleman delivered for Sandwich, running 66 yards down the left sideline and scoring his second touchdown of the game. The Hubs carried their large lead into the fourth quarter, extending it once more when senior quarterback Ethan Etes kept the football and ran 28 yards to the left, following a block from Ansteth to score.
“This was the best offensive game we had all season,” Etes said. “The backs did a great job and we executed our assignments and found players to block. Our defense played really well in the first half. They have a tough offense and they carried out some of the best fakes we’ve seen all season. We need to stick together and we can’t separate as a team.”
Sandwich didn’t go away quietly despite trailing by four touchdowns. The Indians made it 42-21 after Theurer found running back Jackson Murphy for a 46-yard scoring reception. The Hubs fumbled on their next possession, resulting in another Indian touchdown when running back Nic Lidinsky reached the end zone from 4 yards away. Sandwich recovered the onside kick, but Albers sacked Theurer on a third-down pass attempt to essentially seal the Rochelle win. The Hubs will host Sycamore next Friday at 7 p.m.