Rochelle rolls over Johnsburg in conference opener

Skyhawks manage 124 yards of total offense in shutout loss

Johnsburg quarterback AJ Bravieri throws a pass as Rochelle defender Ethan Goodwin lurks during Friday evening’s Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Blue Division matchup on September 9, 2023

ROCHELLE — Johnsburg head football coach Sam Lesniak was direct with his team after the Skyhawks suffered a lopsided shutout loss against the Rochelle Hubs on Friday evening.

Entering with a 2-0 record after wins over Woodstock North and Reed-Custer, Johnsburg was unable to muster much resistance against the wing-T offense of the Hubs, which rumbled for over 400 rushing yards as Rochelle cruised over the Skyhawks 48-0 to start the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River Conference Blue Division schedule. Johnsburg also committed three turnovers on offense, with the Skyhawks managing only 124 yards in the loss on Friday.

“We have to play better and we have to execute better,” Lesniak said. “This game was about toughness and Rochelle has a really tough football team. We have to figure out how to bounce back and get back into the win column. We have to be able to flush it and look to another day.”

The Hubs (2-1, 1-0 I-8/KRC Blue) took the ball to start the game and moved right down the field, scoring on a 31-yard touchdown run from tailback Grant Gensler, who took a toss outside and reached the end zone to give Rochelle a 6-0 lead. A fourth-down stop enabled the Hubs to retake possession and score another touchdown, this time on a 26-yard run from freshman wingback Dylan Manning, who totaled 102 rushing yards and three scores for Rochelle.

Trailing 12-0 midway through the first quarter, Johnsburg had a favorable second-and-3 scenario near midfield, but running back Brett Centnarowicz was stuffed on three straight runs, leaving the Skyhawks one yard short of the first-down marker. Rochelle capitalized on the defensive stand, taking a three-score lead after Manning rushed off the left side for a 10-yard touchdown. The Hubs finished with 404 rushing yards and averaged 8.6 yards per play.

Quarterback AJ Bravieri attempted a pass down the Johnsburg sideline late in the first quarter, but an athletic play from Rochelle cornerback Tommy Tourdot resulted in the first of three interceptions by the Hub defense. Rochelle converted the Skyhawk mistake into more points soon after, with Manning scoring on a 5-yard touchdown rush through the middle to help the Hubs take a 28-0 lead in the second quarter. Bravieri was 8-of-15 for only 57 yards in the loss.

One year after Rochelle’s Garrett Gensler rushed for 362 yards against the Skyhawks, younger brother Grant Gensler showcased his talents Friday evening, finishing with 204 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hub offense. Gensler’s longest run of the evening was a 62-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, where the junior took a toss to the right side and surged through the Skyhawk defense and reached the end zone nearly untouched.

Johnsburg’s final drive of the first half went only 16 yards, with Bravieri taking a sack from Rochelle defensive lineman Kaiden Morris before another interception by Tourdot led to a 33-yard touchdown run from Gensler, which allowed Rochelle to command a 42-0 halftime lead. The Hubs iced the win with two highlight plays including an interception by cornerback Xavier Villalobos in the third quarter and a 2-yard touchdown run from Riley Damask in the fourth.

Johnsburg (2-1, 0-1 I-8/KRC Blue) will look to bounce back against Marengo at home on Friday, Sept. 15. Rochelle will travel for another I-8/KRC Blue contest against the Harvard Hornets.