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Coach Don Beebe (middle) and Aurora Christian assistant coaches react as an Eagle pass is intercepted by Immaculate Conception. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
The target is on their backs, they know that. But could Saturday’s playoff win be a harbinger of a repeat for Aurora Christian?
Coach Don Beebe’s Eagles, the defending IHSA Class 3A state champs, played Winnebago at home in a quarterfinal game for the second year in a row and came away with another 35-point victory, 49-14 after last year’s 48-13 decision.
It sends the fourth-seeded Eagles on the road to Sterling High School this Saturday, where they will take on No. 2 Sterling Newman in a 2 p.m. semifinal.
It was only natural to ask the coach to compare the two playoff runs to this point.
“I don’t want to take anything away from last year because last year was a great thing,” Beebe said. “To be the first (team from Aurora to win a state title) is just phenomenal. (But) this is the best football team I’ve ever coached.”
That said, Beebe and his players also know nothing will be given them.
“Our defense, I thought, struggled a bit,” he said. “We gave up 20-some (22) first downs but only 14 points. That’s a lot of first downs with only 14 points. We had a bend-but-don’t-break attitude and that just shows the moxie of our defense.
“I know (brother and defensive coordinator) Dave (Beebe) is not gonna be happy, but they only gave up 14 points. (Winnebago) was able to do some things, (but) it is the quarterfinals. We’re gonna run into good football teams. You can’t expect to blow everybody out. It’s not gonna happen.”
The Indians, who Beebe thought were better on both sides of the ball compared to last year, had only one punt in the game. They turned the ball over on downs five times.
Aurora Christian senior TE/LB Ryan Suttle, a three-year starter, tried to assess it.
“The difference (this year) is the guys who are out there. This group of seniors is just great to play with, every single one. The chemistry on the team, not that the chemistry was bad last year, but it was different,” he said.
“This is crazier this year. Of course, that just might be coming from me because it’s my last year to go out there and repeat. I’m definitely savoring it.”
Sophomore Matt Tarran has returned home and is doing better after being taken from Saturday’s game in the second quarter by ambulance to a local hospital, ACS athletic director Dan Beebe reports.
Tarran suffered a concussion while playing in the sophomore game five weeks earlier. He had not played or practiced since and did not play in Saturday’s game.
“He was getting dizzy and developing a migraine,” said Dan Beebe. “The diagnosis was that he has post-concussion syndrome. We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to return to school later in the week.
“He was not going to play. It was a reward, allowing him to dress for the game.”
Senior LB Victor Roza, who suffered a concussion in the first half of the Eagles’ win at Immaculate Conception the previous Saturday and missed the remainder of that game, did not play Saturday night.
Don Beebe said he didn’t know if Roza would be able to return.
“Victor’s a great football player and he is a big loss,” said Beebe.
Senior lineman Nick Larson, who has missed time with a knee injury, did come in late in the game at linebacker to test it and may be ready for more work this weekend.