ELMHURST – Even a casual football fan is aware that sometimes a pro quarterback will change a play by calling an audible, and fans who watch a lot of college football know coaches often will signal a new play from the sidelines while the offense is at the line of scrimmage.
But how about a high school coach changing a play after the ball is snapped?
That’s exactly how Aurora Christian (10-1) scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown Saturday in a 28-21, playoff victory against Immaculate Conception (7-4) at Lewis Field. Cory Windle’s 26-yard reception of a Ryan McQuade pass put the Eagles up 28-14 early in the fourth quarter of their Class 3A second-round battle with the Knights.
“We had a play called and coach [Don Beebe] called an audible while I was running the route,” Windle explained. “He yelled out a different route to make the corner bite on the short route and I just ran right by him. It was a great ball by Ryan, and way to pick up the coaches’ call.”
Windle said Beebe made the switch because he saw Windle had one-on-one coverage on the outside with no safety in the area. The Knights were forced to play a lot of man-to-man pass defense in the second half because they were trying to contain Aurora Christian running backs Joel Bouagnon (17 carries, 136 yards) and Brandon Mayes (12-111).
“Both of them are just exceptional athletes,” Beebe said. “They’re just hard to bring down and they’re just relentless in the way they run the football. And that bodes so well for us because they started out early. We were running it successfully and then they started going man-to-man with Chad [Beebe] and Cory, and then we hurt them with them.”
Beebe caught five passes for 106 yards and Windle had four receptions for 92 yards, all in the second half, including a 46-yard TD pass from McQuade that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 21-14 late in the third quarter.
“We were having such a good running game that we wanted to run the ball a lot,” Windle said. “That opened up those long [pass] plays.”
Beebe’s faith in his team’s passing attack nearly backfired late in the fourth quarter. With 3:59 remaining, Aurora Christian defensive lineman Jonah Walker forced a fumble that was recovered by Bouagnon at the Immaculate Conception 40-yard line. But on the next play, McQuade threw an interception, giving the Knights new life.
“It was absolutely the worst call of my career,” Beebe said. “There’s no doubt about it. I should never have called that play. … That was a horrible call. I should have just put the ball in Joel and Brandon’s hands and tried to run as much off the clock as I could.”
It took the Knights less than a minute to score a touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Demetris Carr to Adam Muellers. Windle recovered the ensuing on-side kick attempt and this time the Eagles ran some time off the clock, but IC still got the ball back with six seconds to play. Mayes helped break up Carr’s desperate heave downfield, securing Aurora Christian’s home date with Winnebago (9-2) in the quarterfinals.
“I know we’re going to come out and play hard,” Boaugnon said, “harder than we’ve ever played before.”
Bouagnon certainly played hard against the Knights. He scored both of Aurora Christian’s first-half touchdowns with hard-nosed running, each time erasing an IC lead. The Eagles drove the ball 84 yards on their first scoring drive, all on the ground, including a 25-yard burst up the middle by Bouagnon to the Knights’ 19. He went off tackle left on the next play for the touchdown.
“We started running the ball well and everyone was blocking,” he said. “I saw a good gap outside and I just took it. We just had a good drive and got a little momentum and capitalized.”
After dominating Immaculate Conception in a 47-20 regular season win at Aurora Christian, Beebe said the defending state champion Eagles’ narrow escape this time should be a learning experience for his team.
“We had 22 first downs to [their] one in the first half of that game and it was 35-7,” Beebe noted. “Well, how do you tell a 16-, 17-year-old kid, they could beat you. It’s hard. It was a great lesson for them, not just a football lesson, but a life lesson. You can never get complacent in life.”
AURORA CHRISTIAN 28, IMMACULATE CONCEPTION 21 Aurora Christian 0 14 7 7 – 28 Immaculate Conception 7 7 0 7 – 21 HOW THEY SCORED First quarter IC – Antes 4 run (Muellers kick), 3:33 Second quarter AC – Bouagnon 19 run (Hills kick), 8:07 IC – D’Angelo 31 run (Muellers kick), 3:25 AC – Bouagnon 5 run (Hills kick), 8:07 Third quarter AC – Windle 46 pass from McQuade (Hills kick), 3:31 Fourth quarter AC – Windle 26 pass from McQuade (Hills kick), 10:21 IC – Muellers 5 pass from Carr (Muellers kick) 2:56 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING – Aurora Christian: Mayes 12-111, McQuade 4-18, Beebe 1-3, Bouagnon 17-136. Totals: 40-258. Immaculate Conception: D‘Angelo 16-131, Carr 11-79, Antes 12-40, Leslie 2-22, Iavarone 1-4. Totals: 42-276. PASSING – Aurora Christian: McQuade 12-26-2-231. Immaculate Conception: Carr 10-18-1-104.RECEIVING – Aurora Christian: Mayes 1-10, Bouagnon 2-23, Beebe 5-106, Windle 4-92. Immaculate Conception: Muellers 4-33, D‘Angelo 3-38, Perrone 1-14, Hipskind 2-19.TOTAL YARDS – Aurora Christian 489, Immaculate Conception 380.