Aurora Christian captains Josh Kok, left, Brandon Mayes and Chad Beebe hold up the championship trophy after their win over Tolono Unity during Fridays Class 3A state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
CHAMPAIGN Aurora Christian held a slim 2-point lead over Tolono-Unity and barely had the ball in the third quarter. Fridays winds blasted Memorial Stadium at 30 miles per hour and made passes wobble.
Eagles coach Don Beebe had an idea.
I just told our coaches, listen, weve got to make some adjustments here on offense or were going to lose this football game. Lets get away from this spread stuff and lets just go straight power-I. It was effective.
Pounding 225-pound Joel Bouagnon and slippery Brandon Mayes behind offensive linemen Jackson Carpenter, Nathan Wells, Eric Motisi, Tristan Withrow, Nick Larson and Josh Kok, the Eagles won the line of scrimmage and the game, 42-12 for their second straight Class 3A state title.
We went back out and they played like true champions, Beebe said.
Aurora Christian (13-1) surrendered touchdowns on Unitys first two possessions of the game and answered with 42 straight points.
Like coach said, we just think of ourselves as a second-half team and that no one is going to outscore us in the second, which no one ever does, said two-way tackle Kok, who made 8 tackles, 2 for loss. Linebackers Mayes and Bouagnon made 11 tackles apiece.
I think the wind kind of got in our brains a little bit, saying, we cant play our kind of a game, said Eagles defensive coordinator David Beebe, Dons younger brother. I get that. But who would have known, (down) 12-0 and have 42 straight points in a state final game? Cmon, thats crazy.
And the brief historys gone with Unity, which finished 12-2. In last seasons semifinals the Rockets led Aurora Christian 14-0 and 26-21 only to lose 50-26. It snowballed again Friday.
In the end we just didnt quite make enough plays to do the things we needed to do, said Unity coach Scott Hamilton, now 0-4 in title games. But small-town Unity showed up and played a heck of a game.
Three plays after defensive lineman Anthony Vazquez recovered an Aurora Christian fumble at the Eagles 25-yard line, Mitch Negangard followed left guard Joel Ping for an 18-yard touchdown run.
The Rockets then rumbled 14 plays over 56 yards with Negangard again following the pulling Ping for a 1-yard touchdown run and 12-0 lead with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
One thing Ill say about this team and this characterized both of our (championship) teams boy, do they handle adversity, David Beebe said.
Mayes answered with a 70-yard kickoff return to Unitys 25-yard line. After two short Bouagnon runs Mayes scored on a 16-yard run. Trevor Hills converted the kick.
A pair of poor Unity punts and a fourth-down defensive stop gave Aurora Christian possession at its own 36-yard line with 1:40 left in the second quarter. Quarterback Ryan McQuade threw for one first down, Bouagnon ran for another, and after a timeout McQuade found Cory Windle on a 28-yard touchdown strike. Hills gave the Eagles a 14-12 halftime lead.
Today the safeties were playing so far off that we just had the post route, said receiver Chad Beebe. We needed to score because there wasnt much time left before the half.
Aurora Christian made it a long fourth quarter for Unity. The Rockets missed a chance when a 27-yard field goal from the right hash mark bounced off the left upright.
Mayes followed with a 20-yard run and Bouagnon ran 60 yards for a touchdown and 21-12 Eagles lead at 8:01 of the fourth. The two combined for 166 yards rushing.
Thats a major turn of events, Mayes said, and it opened the floodgates.
Pressing to move the ball, Unity quarterback Justin Deters was intercepted by Noah Roberts, which led to a 10-yard Bouagnon touchdown. Mayes added a 75-yard interception return the first pick-6 of his career and Legend Smith capped the scoring with a 44-yard run.
Winning his first title and helping Aurora Christian to a second straight is why Bouagnon came over from Burlington Central.
I thank God for the opportunity to be on this team and just the family that its given me, said the senior, who will join Mayes and Chad Beebe at Northern Illinois. Everybody always talks about being at state, and were actually right here and we did it, so Im very happy.