Prep Football Insider: Bray injury creates void for Aurora Christian
As Marmion prepared to face Aurora Christian last week, Cadets coach Dan Thorpe heaped heavy-duty praise on Aurora Christian junior quarterback Austin Bray.
"He has the strongest arm I've seen in 33 years of coaching," Thorpe said. "That includes kids in Ohio and Maryland, Wisconsin. I mean, I've been around the block. He just throws a tremendous ball."
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Bray left Friday's game – a 35-14 Marmion win – with what coach Don Beebe said is a separated shoulder. Beebe said he hopes Bray can return in time for the playoffs.
In the meantime, the Eagles (5-1) will be without a guy Beebe said has "so much upside to him" and came into the Marmion game with 17 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
"I always like that ratio," Beebe said last week.
Aurora Christian is thin at quarterback, and turned to a freshman, Ben Weerts, for the late stages of the Marmion game.
The Eagles have a quality offensive line and explosive running back in Legend Smith, so Aurora Christian's offense should continue to be productive in Bray's absence. But with a huge, Week 8 showdown against Montini scheduled for Oct. 19, Bray's absence figures to sting, especially if he's not able to return in time for the playoffs.
Burns emerging for Vikings
A lot is going right for Geneva's offense in recent weeks, and that includes cultivating quality depth at running back.
Senior T.J. Miller (four rushing touchdowns against St. Charles East) remains the Vikings' lead back, but juniors Liam Burns and Max Woodworth have also seen some success in backup duty.
Burns showed especially promising signs in the East win, rushing for 71 yards on 11 carries.
"We've been trying to get Liam going and he keeps running into some speed bumps," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. "He came in hurt into the season, and then he hurt his ribs. We kind of like him, but we just haven't been able to get him going, so I'm really proud for him sticking with it because I know he was pretty upset that he kept getting hurt."
Batavia 'D' coming back together
Batavia coach Dennis Piron said the Bulldogs' defense projects to finally be at full strength for its upcoming game at St. Charles North.
The Bulldogs have rested several key players who were nursing various midseason injuries, many of whom returned in time for Saturday's 46-14 win at Larkin. Starting defensive tackle Ryan Minniti sat out against the Royals, but Piron said he should be available on Friday.
"Next week we'll show you the Batavia defense for the first time," Piron said. "So St. Charles North will get to see us at full speed for the first time since June … I'm excited about that for those kids."
Piron saluted the defense's handling of Larkin on Saturday, adding that a somewhat squishy field might have helped slow the Royals. Only one of Larkin's two touchdowns came on offense.
"It's a team that's been explosive all year, and they weren't explosive against us [Saturday], other than the reverse … I'm very proud of the way our defense played," Piron said.
IN THE GROOVE
Geneva offensive line
What it did: Despite losing senior Quinn Einck – a starting guard and team captain – the week before to an ACL injury, Geneva continued to look sharp both in the passing game and on the ground in Friday's 35-21 win against St. Charles East, thanks largely to the play of the offensive line.
In Einck's absence, the Vikings plugged in 5-foot-11, 265-pounder Sean McKenzie – who had been a swing tackle – at the right guard spot. Left tackle Christopher Goodale, left guard Ryan Powers, center Joey Wagner and right tackle Loudon Vollbrecht also powered the offense.
St. Charles North's depth
What the North Stars did: Playing without two of their premier athletes, injured quarterback Erik Miller and running back Evan Kurtz, North nonetheless overwhelmed struggling Streamwood on Friday, 55-6.
Backup QB Nathan Didier, sophomore call-up running back Dom Sidari and junior running back Nick Edlund were among the reinforcements to capitalize on their opportunities.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
The playoffs remain in play for teams throughout the area.
Through six weeks, all local teams remain in playoff contention, with Burlington Central (2-4) the lone team that is not .500 or better. 6-0 Kaneland is the area's last unbeaten team and first team to clinch a playoff berth.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether Marmion or St. Francis has more in the tank at the end of a brutal, four-week stretch in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue.
Both teams have dealt with Montini, Aurora Christian and Marian Central the past three weeks, and will turn their attention to one another Friday at Fichtel Field. Marmion (5-1) so far has withstood the scheduling challenge better than St. Francis (3-3), which started 3-0 before losing three straight.
COACH SLY SAYS
Wheaton Academy probably isn't going to make the playoffs but the Warriors are showing some gumption this season.
The Warriors have taken some big-time beatings (all three of their losses have been blowout city), but they're sitting at 3-3 for the stretch run after Saturday's pounding of Guerin, needing to win two of their final three to become playoff-eligible.
With powerhouse Marian waiting on Oct. 25, Wheaton Academy realistically is in must-win mode the next two weeks at St. Edward and at Chicago Christian.