AURORA – Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe channeled elements of the Buffalo Bills' no-huddle "K-gun" offense from his playing career on Saturday.
He was reluctant to put an updated moniker on the Eagles' version, especially since he isn't sure if the team will use it again.
What is certain: Aurora Christian's first no-huddle experiment in Beebe's nine seasons couldn't have worked better. The scheme helped the Eagles score touchdowns on their first five second-half possessions to break away from Winnebago, 49-14, in a Class 3A quarterfinal.
"I felt like this could be a game where we might need to change the pace," Beebe said. "And what'd it do? It changed the whole pace of that game. It took them right out of their rhythm. That was a big, big difference in that game."
Winnebago (9-3) spread its carries among several backs, keeping Aurora Christian (11-1) off-balance defensively as the night began. Three Eagles turnovers – including two Ryan McQuade interceptions – took a toll, too, putting the defending 3A state champions temporarily on edge.
The Indians led, 14-7, in the final minute of the second quarter, but surrendered the game's next 42 points. Aurora Christian responded with an 80-yard scoring drive into the wind as time expired on the first half, tying the game.
Joel Bouagnon scored that touchdown from two yards out, his second of four scores.
A senior running back/linebacker who transferred from Burlington Central before the season, Bouagnon added an interception in the third quarter. His touchdowns – of 1, 2, 27 and 5 yards – punctuated several other longer runs that put the Eagles into Indians territory.
"Linemen, receivers downfield, everybody just did their responsibility blocking," Bouagnon said, "and that just opened up massive holes."
Bouagnon struck for 214 yards on 13 carries, while classmate and fellow Northern Illinois recruit Brandon Mayes rushed 11 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Bouagnon, 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, goes by "The Train" among teammates. His nickname and running style complement the 5-11, 182-pound "Amtrak" Mayes nicely.
No one seems to call the Eagles' offensive line anything other than the customary "big uglies," but none of that concerns them. The formation or lack of a huddle doesn't matter to the Eagles' front five, either.
"We knew we were physical up front and we knew that was working out," center Tristin Withrow said.
The fourth-seeded Eagles advanced to face second-seeded Sterling Newman Central Catholic in a semifinal next Saturday.
Aurora Christian certainly enters the game on a roll. The Eagles' defense, which yielded over 300 rushing yards but still stymied the Indians when it counted, credited the offense's burst for its own second-half success.
"We definitely started to build up some confidence," linebacker Ryan Suttle said. "That touchdown at the end of the first half gave us some momentum and led to our defense just stepping up. We knew that if the offense was making plays, that we had to make plays on defense and get things done."
That's been the case more often than not for the Eagles, whose lone loss came against 5A semifinalist Montini, a three-time defending state champ.
"One thing I know about these kids is they have great resolve to them," Beebe said. "Great resolve. Things just bounce right off their back."
Tarran's status uncertain: Beebe said he was unsure of the status of sophomore fullback/linebacker Matt Tarran, who was taken off by ambulance after suffering what Beebe said was a stroke during the game.
Tarran dressed but is not playing. He had concussion earlier this season.
"We don't know," Beebe said. "We ask that you say a prayer for him."
AURORA CHRISTIAN 49, WINNEBAGO 14
Winnebago 0 14 0 0 – 14 Aurora Christian 7 7 21 14 – 49
A – Bouagnon 1 run (Hills kick), 1:03
SECOND QUARTER W – Mosby 1 run (Hickey kick), 5:25 W – Posley 3 pass from Swigart (Hickey kick), 0:56 A – Bouagnon 2 run (Hills kick), 0:00
THIRD QUARTER A – Bouagnon 27 run (Hills kick), 10:27 A – Windle 21 pass from McQuade (Hills kick), 10:13 A – Bouagnon 5 run (Hills kick), 3:25
FOURTH QUARTER A – Mayes 44 run (Hills kick), 11:34 A – Mayes 14 run (Hills kick), 3:00
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING – Winnebago: Hickey 10-77, Pate 15-67, Mosby 12-60, Swigart 6-38, Peterson 4-31, Ward 8-21, Furseth 1-17, Posley 2-14, Heinen 1-8. Aurora Christian: Bouagnon 13-214, Mayes 11-112, McQuade 1-0.PASSING – Winnebago: Swigart 8-16-35-1-1, Heinen 0-1-0-0-0. Aurora Christian: McQuade 10-18-188-1-2.RECEIVING – Winnebago: Posley 2-22, Casey 1-7, Polkowski 5-6. Aurora Christian: Windle 4-74, Mayes 2-50, Beebe 3-37, Bouagnon 1-27.