KCChronicle.com/preps Game of the Week: Class 3A Quarterfinals: No. 9 Winnebago (9-2) at No. 4 Aurora Christian (10-1), 6 p.m. today
What the crowd will be buzzing about: Whether the Indians can close the gap on the Eagles, who rolled, 48-13, when the teams met in this round last season. Aurora Christian went on to win the IHSA Class 3A state title.
Winnebago will have it rolling if... Offensive linemen Adam Abate, Nathan Miller, Brent Campbell, Kalin Wade and Jared Logsdon keep the Indians’ multifaceted running game moving. Prominently a pro-style and I-formation attack, Winnebago still runs out of multiple formations and routinely shuttles in five running backs, led by Fred Mosby (691 rushing yards) and Jake Hickey (542).
Aurora Christian outgained Winnebago, 452-246, last season.
“It helps that we know the team a little bit, but we expect more out of ourselves this year,” Campbell told the Rockford Register-Star. “We’re ready to show up.”
Eagles coach Don Beebe calls this the best defense he’s had in nine seasons at ACS. Ends Jonah Walker (nine sacks) and Josh Kok (six) start with the pressure up front, with middle linebacker Joel Bouagnon and company flowing in from there.
“Typically on turf, our defense plays very fast, so I would assume that they’ll play pretty good,” Beebe said.
What a fly on the wall in Winnebago’s locker room might hear: “I’m racking my brain to remember what we talked about before the game here last year. Superstition and history really have nothing to do with what goes down tonight, but we might as well be safe, right? Seriously, though, we know what we’re up against. They’re fast and they’re explosive on either side of the ball, and we’ve got to be ready to be physical and keep our offense out there. There’s a reason we use so many backs, fellas, and it’s because everyone on this team has skill. Lets show ‘em our depth is better than theirs and move on.”
Aurora Christian will have it rolling if... Its offense comes unhinged.
While Winnebago is coming off a 56-20 rout of top-seeded Elmwood-Brimfield in the second round, Aurora Christian edged Immaculate Conception, 28-21, after rolling past the Knights in a Suburban Christian Conference crossover earlier in the season.
Senior wide receiver Chad Beebe, Don’s son, leads the team with 49 catches and 825 yards despite missing about half the season with a broken arm. He returned in time for the postseason.
“Personally, I didn’t feel like I missed a beat,” Chad Beebe said. “Play-wise, I just try to stay educated on all the plays [Don Beebe is] throwing in each week.”
The Eagles have promoted balance throughout the season, with Bouagnon (1,052 yards) and Brandon Mayes (639) the leading rushers behind a seasoned offensive line that includes two-year starters Kok and Eric Motisi at left tackle and left guard, respectively.
“We’ve been playing together for awhile, so it’s good,” Kok said.
What a fly on the wall in Aurora Christian’s locker room might hear: “Let’s have none of this, ‘Here we go again,’ OK, guys? We know their personnel and they know ours because a lot of you played them last year. But it wasn’t the same game. We’ve got a different past that’s prologue to this and we’ve also got a state title to defend. We know we get everybody’s best game because of who we are, and that goes double tonight given the history with our teams. You seniors were freshmen in the program when we lost in Winnebago in the first round. It’s time to prove that Christian’s still on top.”
Kevin Druley’s prediction: Aurora Christian 41, Winnebago 14 Immaculate Conception nearly got revenge last week after a Week 7 loss to the Eagles. The Indians have had more time to brood, but it won’t make a difference. Aurora Christian brings too many offensive weapons, and with the defense to match, that spells doom for the visitors.