Junior Tackle: Rochelle finishes strong against Kewanee

Eighth-grader Chandler Cunningham reaches out for a catch during Rochelle's win over Kewanee on Sunday. (Photo by Robin Rethwill)

Seventh, eighth-graders win as fifth, sixth-graders earn forfeits

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Junior Tackle program closed out the regular season with home games against Kewanee at Helms Park on Sunday. Both the seventh and eighth-graders recorded victories, while the fifth and sixth-graders earned forfeits.

All four Rochelle Junior Tackle teams have qualified for Big 14 Conference postseason games. The fifth and seventh-graders will compete for first place, while the sixth and eighth-graders will battle for third place.

8th Grade

Rochelle (6-2) defeated Kewanee 32-20 to qualify for the third-place conference game against Stillman Valley on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The game will be played at Helms Park in Rochelle.

Owen Messer started the Rochelle defense with a fumble recovery in the first quarter, but a turnover on downs led to Kewanee’s first scoring drive that put the Junior Hubs behind 6-0. Rochelle bounced back and tied the game on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brock Metzger to Reiley Bonilla, with Bonilla running in the 2-point play to give the Junior Hubs an 8-6 lead.

Tommy Tourdot recovered the ensuing onside kick, and a quick sequence of events including a Kewanee interception and a forced safety from Christian Burnette put Rochelle ahead 10-6 in the second quarter. Kewanee stole the lead entering halftime, returning a punt 64 yards for a touchdown at the end of the second quarter to lead the Junior Hubs 14-10 after converting the 2-point rush.

Kewanee extended its lead in the third quarter, completing an 88-yard touchdown pass to pull ahead 20-10. Erich Metzger brought Rochelle back, rushing for a 3-yard touchdown and making it a 20-16 game before Braden Hunley forced a fumble on the kickoff that Messer recovered. Brock Metzger connected with Omar Hueramo on a 10-yard touchdown pass, and Erich Metzger ran in the 2-point play to put the Junior Hubs up 24-20.

Kewanee turned the ball over on downs at the end of the third quarter, and Rochelle started the fourth quarter with a 12-play drive resulting in Bonilla’s 14-yard rushing touchdown. Bonilla added the 2-point rush and made it 32-20. Rochelle earned the ball back after an interception from Brandt Waters. Kewanee did not score for the remainder of the game.

7th Grade

Rochelle (6-1-1) topped Kewanee 30-14 to reach the first-place conference game against Rockton on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. The game will be played in Byron.

Frankie Pelan recovered a Kewanee fumble on the second play of the game, leading to a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Ethan Goodwin. After forcing a turnover on downs, Rochelle went ahead 14-0 with a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Brandyn Metzger and a 2-point pass from Carson Lewis to Grant Gensler.

Kewanee cut the lead to 14-8 with a 23-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion before Metzger scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard rush. Gensler made it 22-8 Rochelle with a 2-point run. Kewanee nearly scored early in the third quarter, but an interception by Kaiden Morris gave Rochelle possession. Lewis then ran 28 yards for a touchdown and Gensler rushed for the 2-point conversion. Trailing 30-8, Kewanee scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the fourth quarter.

6th Grade

Rochelle (6-2) ended the regular season with a forfeit over Kewanee to clinch a spot in the third-place conference game against Rockton on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be played at Helms Park in Rochelle.

5th Grade

Rochelle (8-0) also received a forfeit from Kewanee to earn a spot in the first-place conference game against Byron on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be played in Byron.

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