PLANO — When the Rochelle Hub varsity football team needed big-time defensive stops during Friday’s Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River matchup against Plano, freshman standout Kaiden Morris rose to the occasion, dropping Reaper quarterback Carson Gill twice for two of the team’s three second-half sacks as Rochelle held off Plano for a 28-20 victory on the road.
It’s the fifth consecutive win for the Hubs (6-2, 4-1 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue), who clinched an automatic berth to the playoffs with Friday’s victory. While Plano running back Ray Jones challenged the Rochelle defense, rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns, Morris and the Hubs limited Gill to only eight completions and 23 yards of total offense.
“It feels great to get this win,” Morris said. “We wanted to come out here and shut them down on defense so we could come back out on offense and score. We’re taking everything one week at a time and we have to move on and get ready for our game against Sandwich next week.”
Rochelle scored on its opening drive Friday, erasing almost nine minutes from the clock and taking the early lead on a 1-yard rushing touchdown from junior Garrett Gensler, who finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. A bad snap halted Plano’s first drive, setting the Reapers back several yards before being forced to punt. The Hubs capitalized on the Plano mistake, scoring on Gensler’s 23-yard rushing touchdown during the second quarter.
“We’re rolling right now,” Gensler said. “We got after them tonight. Their defense was presenting some challenges for us but I thought we handled them well. They were talking a lot tonight and there were a few penalties, but we have good leaders and we stuck together.”
Plano cut into Rochelle’s lead before halftime, with Jones finding the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run to make it a 14-7 game near the end of the second quarter. The Reapers received the second-half kickoff and quickly moved down the field, capping off a three-minute drive with another 4-yard touchdown run from Jones that tied the game at 14-14.
After Plano stopped Rochelle’s ensuing drive and forced the first Hub punt of the night, Rochelle immediately responded on defense, with Morris sacking Gill for an 8-yard loss on fourth down to give the ball back to the Hubs. The defensive play energized the Rochelle sideline and the offense, which saw junior Cody Stover-Cullum break through the middle of the Plano defense for a 60-yard touchdown run on the very next play to put the Hubs ahead again.
Leading 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, Rochelle’s defense was presented with another chance for a fourth-down stop. Answering the call for a second time, Morris knifed through the Plano offensive line, sacking Gill for an 11-yard loss and forcing another turnover on downs. The sack set up a 10-play, 70-yard and nearly six-minute scoring drive that Stover-Cullum capped off with a 6-yard touchdown run to effectively seal the victory for the Hubs.
“We’ve been a lot more physical on defense,” Gensler said. “We changed up our scheme and it’s been working well for us. We’re getting stops when we need to and we’re making plays.”
Stover-Cullum finished with a team-high 137 rushing yards for the Hubs, who host Sandwich for Senior Night next Friday at 7 p.m. Four players including seniors Braden Alfano and Tanner Lager totaled seven tackles on defense, with junior Bradley Cooney adding one sack.
The Rochelle fresh-soph football team defeated Plano 30-22 on Friday, improving to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue Division with the win. Freshman Erich Metzger rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Rochelle offense, while freshman Grant Gensler added 86 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Multiple players stepped up on defense including freshman Brandyn Metzger, who led the team with 10 tackles. Sophomore Brock Metzger finished with six tackles and 53 rushing yards, while freshman Xavier Villalobos recorded an interception and had 56 rushing yards Friday. Freshman Ryan Senne had one tackle for loss to aid the Rochelle defense in the victory.