Football: Hubs fall short against Herscher

Gensler runs for 179 yards, two touchdowns in 29-27 loss

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ROCHELLE — Junior tailback Garrett Gensler had already rushed for two touchdowns before the Rochelle Hub varsity football team’s final offensive possession against the Herscher Tigers on Friday. With Rochelle trailing late in the fourth quarter, Gensler evaded several Herscher defenders before reaching the end zone for what would’ve been his third touchdown.

But an illegal block erased the touchdown and allowed the Tigers to preserve their tight lead before another Hub penalty on the next play set the Rochelle offense back several more yards. The Hubs were unable to recover, turning the ball over on downs and giving the ball back to Herscher. A clutch fourth-down run from Tiger running back Cody Lunsford, who had 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns, effectively sealed Herscher’s 29-27 win over Rochelle.

“We made a couple of mistakes in situations where we made successful plays,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “We need to clean those things up and we cannot beat ourselves. We need to make sure we’re playing sound defense and getting ourselves lined up in the right spots. Our pre-snap routines need to be better and those are things we’ll need to clean up this week.”

Rochelle struck first in the opening quarter, forcing Herscher to punt on its initial possession before scoring on Gensler’s 10-yard rushing touchdown. Junior Cody Stover-Cullum added the 2-point run shortly after to give the Hubs an 8-0 lead, which remained entering the second quarter, where the Tigers tied the game with 8:16 left in the first half on an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Clay Schutz and a 2-point pass from Brock Wenzelman to Schultz.

The Hubs led 14-8 at halftime after junior Trey Taft, who finished with 85 rushing yards on 14 carries, broke through the left side of the line for a 6-yard rushing touchdown. Herscher leaned on Lunsford to carry the load in the second half and the Tiger running back responded, exploding for a 60-yard rushing touchdown on the team’s third play of the third quarter. Lunsford then booted the extra-point attempt through to give Herscher its first lead.

A 25-yard run from Gensler and a 19-yard run from junior Landon DeLille ignited Rochelle’s next offensive possession, which concluded with Stover-Cullum’s 2-yard rushing touchdown that gave the Hubs a 20-15 lead with 3:07 left in the third quarter. Lunsford answered for Herscher soon after, rushing for a 22-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Neither offense showed signs of slowing down midway through the second half, as Rochelle responded right back on the team’s longest play from scrimmage, which was Gensler’s 61-yard rushing touchdown that helped cap off a 17-carry, 179-yard rushing performance Friday night. Trailing 27-23 with 10:57 remaining in regulation, Herscher needed only six plays to regain the lead, with Lunsford’s 3-yard rushing touchdown wrapping up a 52-yard scoring drive.

“Garrett does a lot for us and we lean on him for a lot,” Kissack said. “That’s our expectation for him and I expect him to play every snap, carry the ball well and be a difference-maker for us, both running the ball and in our blocking scheme. Garrett gave us a great effort tonight, but we have multiple kids who need to carry the ball effectively… We just have to get better.”

Rochelle (1-1) finished with 353 yards of total offense against the Tigers. Taft and Gensler each led the defense with four tackles, while junior Jaden Cook added three tackles in the loss. The Hubs will open conference play against Richmond-Burton on the road next Friday at 7 p.m.