Power-run game stalls and Rochelle has no answer in IHSA state quarterfinal loss
ROCHELLE — The magical run for the Rochelle Hubs fell three steps shy of their ultimate goal when the power-run game stalled and they were ousted in the IHSA Class 4A state quarterfinals 35-16 by Wheaton St. Francis on Saturday.
"No loss is easy to take, but at the end of the day, there's nothing our guys should hang their heads about after this one," Rochelle coach Kyle Kissack said. "Our kids emptied the tank tonight. A couple of missed opportunities, but we battled back through the adversity and played well until the finish."
All the quarterfinal scores:Get all the scores from the state quarterfinal football games for Rockford-area teams
Rochelle (9-3) failed on three straight fourth-down tries and averaged only 3.9 yards per carry as St. Francis took over in the middle of the game. It was going well for Rochelle and its power-run attack out of the wishbone early on, however.
"The way that first half played itself out, and even that first drive of that second half, it went exactly to plan for us," Kissack said. "It's a 10-minute drive to open, and we get points. And our defense battled in that first half and played really well ... But we just got a little off the schedule there."
The Hubs snagged an 8-0 lead when halfback Garrett Gensler, wingback Trey Taft and fullback Erich Metzger all kept the chains moving before Metzger scored to cap off a 9:34 drive to open the game. Amari Head broke to the outside for a 61-yard TD run on Wheaton St. Francis' first offensive play, but the Hubs trailed only 12-8 at half.
An early second-half turnover helped Wheaton St. Francis build some speed, and the Spartans went on to score five unanswered touchdowns to take control. Brady Piper led the Spartan offense with 78 yards and three scores on the ground, while QB Alessio Milivojevic went 8-for-14 passing for 119 yards.
Gensler came into the game leading the Rockford area with 1,701 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he was held to 20 yards on 15 carries. Metzger came in with back-to-back 100-plus-yard rushing games, but he fell just short Saturday, gaining 98 yards and scoring a TD on 18 carries.
Taft exploded around end for a 67-yard touchdown run that bumped him over 1,000 (1,099) rushing yards on the season, and he led both teams with 104 yards on the ground. Junior linebacker Brock Metzger totaled a team-high eight tackles and senior defensive end Landon DeLille recorded five tackles and two for loss.
But none of it was enough to extend Rochelle's season for one more week. The Hubs did post the most wins in a single season since 2004.
"As you start to remember this group moving forward," Kissack added, "it's one that goes right up to the top of the list as one of the better ones to come through Rochelle Township High School."
Jay Taft is a Rockford Register Star sports reporter. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @JayTaft. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com. Jay has covered a wide variety of sports, from the Chicago Bears to youth sports, for more than 20 years at the Register Star, and for nearly 30 years all together.