ROCKTON - Hononegah senior Drew Rollette's allegiance won't be so twisted this time around.
When Hononegah and Boylan met on the gridiron last fall, Rollette was in the stands, nursing an ankle injury and there mainly to watch his brother Reed, a starting safety for the Titans.
"Honestly, it was terrible," Rollette said. "I tore some ligaments playing summer basketball, and I knew I would be out the entire season, so I didn't bother going out. I did a few months of physical therapy instead of having surgery and just got ready for basketball. It was a pretty rough time for me."
With his injury fully healed after basketball season, Rollette set his sights back on his first true love: Football.
While the journey to get their was arduous at times, Rollette's effort paid off handsomely when he was installed as the starting "one linebacker" spot, a kind of safety-linebacker hybrid in the Indians' staunch defense. After a solid first two weeks, Rollette was named the team's defensive MVP in Friday's blowout win over Rockford East to make them 3-0 on the season.
The highlight of Rollette's performance was a six-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Hononegah coach Brian Zimmerman said it wasn't long before he realized Rollette would provide immediate assistance to the defensive unit.
"When he was working out with us in the summer, the coaches all said he was going to score some points for us on defense," Zimmerman said. "We thought he'd get at least two. Three games in, he's already got one and we don't think he's done yet."
Zimmerman said the 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior's versatility brings tremendous value to his team.
"He decided to come back to football," Zimmerman said. "And lo and behold, he's a freaking superstar. He comes up and puts a lick on people, and that's huge. He's a tough, hard-nosed player that plays smart. He can really shed blocks. East tried to throw a bubble screen against us and he got rid of both of the guys that were blocking him and made the play. I'm excited to see what he can do this week against Boylan."
Due to Rollette's limited experience on the varsity level, Zimmerman feels he has the ability to improve.
"You can tell he's still just learning out there," Zimmerman said. "He hasn't played varsity until three games ago. The game speed at this level is so much faster. His biggest issue has been figuring out what the offense is doing and when he has to drop in coverage and things like that. But that's all coming together and he continues to improve in that area."
The Daily News caught up with Rollette Monday night after practice as his unblemished Indians prepare to host 2-1 Boylan on Homecoming Friday night.
BDN: So how did your brother end up at Boylan and you at Hononegah?
Rollette: "It was just a person decision for both of us. I think for him, he felt like with sports Boylan was a better fit (Reed is now playing at St. Ambrose University). I decided to stick with Hononegah. I knew I made the right choice then, and I've never doubted it since."
BDN: So even though your brother isn't there anymore, does this game carry a little extra juice for you?
Rollette: "Definitely. Definitely it does. I've been waiting for this game for a very long time. I'm pretty good friends with a few of their players, and I can't wait for Friday night."
BDN: What do you think has been the key to your success after sitting out an entire season?
Rollette: "I have very good teammates who have helped me out along the way and a great coaching staff. And I worked hard to prepare for the year. Practice, lifting, there's all kinds of things that go into getting ready for a season and I worked very hard."
BDN: Tell us about that pick-six you had against East.
Rollette: "That was fun. Our defensive line got a really good push, especially from Jake Hooper. The quarterback had to get out of the pocket and we forced him to throw it low. I was able to step in front of it and it was only a couple more yards until I was in the end zone."
BDN: Before the season began, you guys weren't expected to do much. I saw one newspaper had you picked in about the middle of the conference. Did that give you guys a little chip on your shoulder heading into the season?
Rollette: "Oh it did for sure. It gave us a lot of motivation. We didn't let that slip from our minds at all. It gave us a real spark."
BDN: How do you view Friday night's game against Boylan?
Rollette: "It's definitely a statement game. They are a very good team obviously, but I think we match up well against them. It should be a really good game."