ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity football team may only be roughly four months removed from its last contest, but head coach Kyle Kissack and his staff are excited to be back on a normal routine after the team kicked off its first practice of the 2021 season Monday morning.
Rochelle’s nine-game schedule will begin with a road matchup against Woodstock on Friday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. The Hubs will field both a varsity and a fresh-soph team this season. With the Interstate 8 Conference and Kishwaukee River Conference combining to make two divisions for the 2021 season, Rochelle will see some familiar foes in Plano and Sandwich on its conference schedule while squaring off against unfamiliar teams such as Richmond-Burton, Johnsburg, Harvard and Marengo. Rochelle’s schedule includes a crossover matchup with Kaneland and a nonconference contest against Herscher on Sept. 3, which will be Rochelle’s home opener.
“We’re back into a rhythm,” Kissack said. “We had a great summer and it finally feels like we’re back into that rhythm. Things could change at a minute’s notice, but what we can control is our energy, our attitude and our effort… We want to get better every day and we need to stay healthy. That’s a major point of emphasis for us since our numbers are pretty thin.”
The Hubs will return three-year varsity starters on the offensive side in senior center Brodie Nantz and senior tight end Ethan Wells. Juniors Jaden Cook and Garrett Gensler are also back in the fold on offense after taking home All-Conference Honorable Mentions during the six-game spring season. Senior Josh Lloyd will be under center for his second varsity season as the starting quarterback. The Hubs are looking to build on their 2-4 record from the spring.
“Our senior class has done a great job of accepting their leadership role,” Kissack said. “They’ve done a nice job and even though our numbers are a little light, our seniors have done well to bring our younger kids up and through our program… Josh has progressed a lot this summer and we’re really happy with where he’s at. Garrett started on both sides for us and played every special teams rep as a sophomore. He played almost every snap of that spring season.”
Senior lineman Braden Alfano will headline Rochelle’s returning starters on defense after bringing home an All-Conference Honorable Mention earlier this year. Senior linebacker Tanner Lager and senior cornerback Nate Burdin are also back to anchor the Hub defense, while Lloyd has taken reps at the free safety position. Rochelle is eyeing its first postseason bid since 2018.
“We’ve relied on Braden heavily over the last two years and he’ll be a big part of what we’re trying to do,” Kissack said. “We have kids with experience and that’s something we’ll lean on over the early part of the season. I thought we really did a nice job defensively during the spring, especially playing a lot of young kids. Our pre-snap routines were good and we adjusted well on the fly… We have some good pieces to build around on the defensive side.”