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Prep Sports

Mirror-image adversary for Pirates vs. Rochelle

The Ottawa Pirates' next opponent is a mirror image of their previous foe.

Friday night, the Pirates face the Rochelle Hubs — whose play resembles that of Geneseo — in their last Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game and on senior night at King Field.

Rochelle is 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the NIB 12 West, with wins over Geneseo (28-21) and La Salle-Peru (55-33). Last Saturday, the Hubs were edged by Sterling, 23-20 on the final play of the contest.

"They're very similar to Geneseo, how Geneseo's record wasn't indicative of the type of team they are," Pirates coach Chad Gross said of Rochelle. "They've lost a couple very close games to very good teams. They took Sterling, one of the top teams in the state (in Class 5A), to the last play of the game. I mean, they're a battle-tested team for sure.

"You know, we handed the kids (Rochelle's) film, and the kids were like, they look just like Geneseo. Both teams like to control the ball, play sound defense and make you make the mistakes to beat yourself. (They're) big, physical, and they execute at a very high level."

Rochelle's wing-T offense is averaging 27.6 points while churning out 252.4 yards per game on the ground. Senior wingbacks Eddie Villalobos (86 carries, 543 yards, 8 TD) and Brandon Johnson (89-536-7) have combined for 1,079 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. A third 500-yard-plus rusher, senior fullback Noah Knight (65-511-8), was considered day-to-day as of Monday night with a rib injury, per Hubs coach Kyle Kissack. They plod through behind an O-line anchored by the Jandak brothers, 12th-grade left tackle Will and junior left guard Charlie. Senior quarterback Andrew Johnson has completed 16-of-43 passes for 170 yards with a TD and three interceptions.

The Pirates are giving up 44 points and 411.4 yards per game (264.3 on the ground, 147.1 through the air).

"Just like Geneseo, there's a couple different backs they like to give the ball to. Quarterback's a good ball-handler; he can throw the ball too, so we have to be aware," Gross said. "We definitely need to read our keys better (than last week)."

"We'll have to do a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage — offensively, we need to be physical at the point of attack; our backs need to run hard with and without the football — controlling the clock by being ball control, and then we need to finish drives with points," said Kissack of the offensive game plan.

The Hubs are allowing 27.1 points and 171.9 yards per game (99.3 rushing, 72.6 passing). The "D" is spearheaded by the Jandaks on the line (end Will, tackle Charlie), inside linebackers Larry Beck (leading tackler) and Brandon Johnson, along with Villalobos at free safety.

Ottawa (0-7, 0-3) is averaging 9.9 points and 188.1 yards per game (96.3 rushing, 91.9 passing). Sophomore QB Brett Galletti threw for more than 100 yards for the third consecutive game last week against Geneseo.

"Defensively, similar to Geneseo, they're going to make you work your way down the field," Gross said, "so our offense is going to have to put together some drives. We do want to try to establish the run a little bit more. Secondary-wise, they're all very good tacklers."

"I think they do a nice job of mixing things up offensively," Kissack said of Ottawa, "so we'll have to give them formation recognition, get our kids lined up and ready. We need to play fast and physical, you know, downhill with relentlessness."

Prior to the game, the Pirate 12th-graders will be recognized.

"I preached to them," Gross said, "this is their last chance they're going to have on King Field ... so go out there and leave everything on the field. Make it a memorable one."

Rochelle Hubs (3-4, 2-1) at Ottawa Pirates (0-7, 0-3)

Game time: 7:15 p.m. Friday at King Field.

Radio: JACK-FM 95.3, WLWF-FM 96.5.

Last meeting: Rochelle 29, Ottawa 7 (2017).

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