ROCHELLE — With neither defense able to muster any stops Friday evening, Rochelle senior Bryton DiSimoni knew he needed to make a big special teams play to swing the momentum when the Hubs faced off against the Marengo Indians in a pivotal conference matchup.
After regaining the lead midway through the third quarter, Rochelle called for its first and only onside kick attempt of the evening. Senior Marco Castro toed the ball to the left side, with the ball bouncing over the head of one Marengo player and setting up a mad scrum for possession. When the pack cleared away, it was DiSimoni who ran back to his sideline with the ball, sealing a game-changing play as the Hubs went on to hold off the Indians for a 41-32 win.
“It feels amazing to get this win,” DiSimoni said. “We had been looking forward to this game all week and we knew we had to win, not only for ourselves but for our fans. I had a feeling we would be calling something on special teams and when I heard the call, I told my guys that the ball was coming our way. I saw the ball and told myself that it was my chance to make a play.”
Rochelle (4-2, 3-1 Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue) and Marengo (3-3, 2-1 Kishwaukee River Blue) combined for over 800 yards on offense Friday night. The Hubs melted nearly nine minutes off the clock in the first quarter, scoring on the first of three rushing touchdowns from junior Cody Stover-Cullum, who totaled 102 yards on a season-high 26 carries in the win.
“We definitely felt that this was a must-win game,” Stover-Cullum said. “We’ve been working on our blocking a lot during practice and we really picked it up tonight. We blocked really well tonight and everybody was running hard. It’s a huge boost to my confidence and we’re going to keep this thing rolling and hopefully make a run for the playoffs.”
Marengo quarterback Joshua Holst was nearly perfect on Friday, finishing 22-of-26 for 323 yards and three total touchdowns. But the Indians scored their first touchdown on the ground, with Dylan Stolz rushing for a 2-yard touchdown before Marengo botched the extra-point attempt. The Indians went on to attempt five two-point conversions, making only one.
Marengo had no answers for Rochelle’s rushing attack on Friday, with the Hubs scoring another touchdown on the ground early in the second quarter, when Stover-Cullum plowed through the middle for a 6-yard run to make it a 14-6 game. The Indians struck back quickly, scoring on a 60-yard touchdown pass, a long bomb over the middle of the Hub defense, from Holst to Exzavier Meyer, who led Marengo with three catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Leading 14-12, Rochelle surged ahead late in the second quarter, when junior Garrett Gensler broke multiple Marengo tackles for a 26-yard touchdown run up the middle. One minute later, Holst capped off a lightning-fast scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for the Indians, who trailed 21-18 at halftime. Marengo briefly held the lead in the third quarter, receiving the second-half kickoff and scoring on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Holst to Meyer.
Behind for the first time all night, Rochelle found itself in a fourth-down situation. But the Hubs pulled through, with Gensler taking the carry and shedding several Marengo tacklers once again, sprinting through the middle for a 28-yard touchdown run. Gensler’s touchdown preceded DiSimoni’s onside kick recovery, which helped set up a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Stover-Cullum that gave the Hubs a 35-26 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a major boost to my confidence and it’s a huge win for our team,” DiSimoni said.
Marengo made one last effort in the fourth quarter, moving the ball down the field with Stolz, who scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to make it a 35-32 game after the Indians’ fourth and final failed 2-point conversion attempt. Marengo then failed to recover an onside kick, leading Rochelle to immediately punish the Indians with a 59-yard, game-clinching touchdown run from junior Trey Taft, who led the Hubs with 139 rushing yards in the victory Friday night.
Senior Tanner Lager led the defense with 10 tackles, while junior Aidan Rodriguez added five tackles for the Hubs, who will play at Kaneland next Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.
The Rochelle Hub fresh-soph football team took down Marengo on Friday, winning 38-20 and improving to 5-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue Division.
Freshman Erich Metzger led the Hubs with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while freshman Grant Gensler totaled three touchdowns in the win including a 30-yard scoring reception from freshman quarterback Carson Lewis. Sophomore Brandt Waters rushed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Sophomores Brock Metzger and Tommy Tourdot combined for 11 tackles to lead the defense, with freshman Jack Pavlak recording a safety. Rochelle will face Kaneland on the road next Friday at 5 p.m.