Brandon Mayes often pulled underclassmen aside after Aurora Christian football practices, letting them know he spotted progress and appreciated their effort.
Two weeks after the Eagles’ season ended with a repeat Class 3A state championship, the senior running back/linebacker still is sticking around.
ACS keeps an offseason weightlifting regimen three days a week, and Mayes, the Kane County Chronicle Football Player of the Year, finds it’s the perfect setting for a postscript.
“Most of the time, when the seniors are done, the seniors are done. We aren’t with the team much anymore,” Mayes said. “I’ve always said this team is different. We’re right there with the juniors and younger guys lifting, pushing them, keeping them in check to make sure they’re ready to do this again.”
Should Aurora Christian play for a three-peat in 2013, it will do so without two-way stalwarts Mayes and Joel Bouagnon, as well as record-setting wide receiver Chad Beebe.
With the IHSA football finals shifting to DeKalb for odd-numbered years beginning next season, however, Beebe, Bouagnon and Mayes could be close enough at hand as Northern Illinois recruits.
Mayes knows he would shout from the Huskie Stadium stands then, but that likely would be the extent of it. Even this season, he realized there were some situations in which he wasn’t required to give a speech.
Welcoming Bouagnon – a Burlington Central transfer living in Batavia – as a running mate in the offensive backfield and at linebacker was one of them.
“We had pretty much an instant connection,” Bouagnon said. “We were pretty good buddies right away, so it was a pretty easy transition.”
Veteran Eagles coach Don Beebe praised Mayes as the best high school player he has had. Mayes’ statistics – including 123 tackles (17.5 for loss), 1,317 yards of total offense and skills in the return game – help illustrate the claim. So did his intangibles.
Don Beebe’s brother, Dave, the ACS defensive coordinator, shifted Mayes from safety to linebacker this season to highlight his speed and playmaking ability. Beginning his varsity career as a sophomore, Mayes also played wide receiver more frequently then.
“Being younger than most of the guys that I played, they had a little bit more of a strength advantage,” Mayes said. “I didn’t really let that affect me, though. The experience you get, you learn and grow and learn newer and better ways to do things. Over time, I just learned what my role was.”
While the 5-foot-11, 182-pound Mayes still showcased his backpedal in coverage on occasion as a senior, he made most of his defensive impact as a rushing linebacker.
“He has no fear whatsoever of taking on a guard and making a play,” Don Beebe said. “He’d take on linemen even from schools like [four-time defending 5A champ] Montini and he’d make that tackle for no gain. Obviously, he’s a safety or a corner at the next level, but we just wanted to get him up in that mix of the game.”
Aurora Christian capped its 13-1 season with a 45-12 victory against Tolono Unity in the 3A championship game.
The Rockets were in position to take a late lead, but kicker Cody Payne’s 28-yard field goal caromed off the left upright with 8:36 to play. Aurora Christian forced three Tolono turnovers after that, including Mayes’ 75-yard interception return for a touchdown that provided a 35-12 edge after the extra point.
Mayes stashed the final touchdown of his high school career away with all the rest.
“I think the season defined itself,” Mayes said. “There’s no better way in my mind of going out as a captain and winning the state title.”