AURORA – For the second straight year, the Aurora Christian football team will have a nontraditional Thanksgiving experience.
The Eagles aren’t complaining.
Aurora Christian heads to Champaign today in advance of Friday’s 4 p.m. IHSA Class 3A state championship game against Tolono Unity.
“I didn’t miss Thanksgiving at all last year,” Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said. “If I could spend my Thanksgivings in Champaign for the rest of my coaching career, I’ll take it.”
For the second straight year, the team plans to gather for a Thanksgiving dinner at a church in Champaign. Senior two-way lineman Josh Kok has fond memories from a year ago.
“For the most part, yeah,” Kok said. “We all eat dinner as a team and with our families. I think we went to a church and ate last year, and they made us food. We didn’t have turkey and stuff, but we had ham. It was pretty good.”
Beebe said the Eagles’ itinerary for the trip is a virtual replica of last year’s trip, which culminated with a championship win against Mount Carmel.
Beebe is a creature of habit – especially when there is no reason to change course.
“Our routine’s the same,” Beebe said. “When we leave, when we have the meeting, when we’ll go over to the stadium. Everything will be exactly the same as what we did last year. And it worked well.”
Three musketeers: Northern Illinois-bound seniors Chad Beebe, Joel Bouagnon and Brandon Mayes will play their final game together for Aurora Christian on Friday, but their bond figures to continue strengthening.
The three are each ticketed to be roommates in DeKalb. Don Beebe said the trio already is tight, despite Mayes needing to make room in the Eagles’ backfield this season for Bouagnon, a Burlington Central transfer.
“I wouldn’t want, as a parent, two better roommates than Brandon Mayes and Joel Bouagnon for my son, Chad,” Beebe said. “They’re great. And both Brandon and Joel have had this mentality of ‘Hey, you take this one.’ It’s not ‘Hey, I’ve got this one,’ it’s ‘You take this one.’”
The coach said he was impressed that Bouagnon, who starred for the Rockets as a junior, didn’t pout when the Eagles focused on retooling their passing game early in the season.
“Matter of fact, I even went to him one time and I said ‘Joel, i just want you to know, your day’s coming, you’re going to get the ball, I’ve just got to get [quarterback Ryan McQuade] on a roll,’” Beebe said.
“You know what he said to me? He says ‘OK coach, I just want to win. We’re alright.’ I turned around, and I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ That was unbelievable. You just don’t hear that nowadays.”
Welcome home: Win or lose, Aurora Christian has scheduled a “Welcome home” celebration for 5 p.m. Saturday at the Aurora Christian gymnasium. Everyone is welcome.
Starting at 3:30 p.m., there will be a parade beginning at the Orchard Church at Galena and Barnes streets.