AURORA – Montini pinned a punt inside the Aurora Christian 5-yard line early in Saturday's fourth quarter.
With the running clock ticking closer to the Broncos' eventual 49-0 Suburban Christian Conference Blue victory, the play indirectly heaped insult upon injury.
Better the former than more of the latter for the hobbled Eagles.
Facing four-time defending 5A state champion Montini with 15 starters sidelined, two-time defending 3A state champ Aurora Christian kept a pulse on perspective throughout the night.
"It's testing all of us," senior two-way lineman Brennon Kuhn said. "Every one of us is getting a role now."
Until Saturday's defeat clinched one, Aurora Christian (5-3, 3-3 SCC Blue) hadn't endured a three-game losing streak since 2002. Then-coach Andrew Price presided over successive Private School League losses to Rockford Lutheran (35-0), Walther Lutheran (30-7) and Chicago Christian (28-0) in Weeks 3-5.
The Eagles rallied to win their last four games that season and qualified for the playoffs.
Similarly, there's really no prolonged sense of foreboding around this year's team, even with the result against Montini (8-0, 6-0) now in players' memory banks. Aurora Christian already is playoff-eligible, and a win at struggling Guerin next week would earn the program its 12th successive postseason berth.
With the injury prognosis positive for most regulars, Aurora Christian might only sweat the loss of a home game or two as it re-enters the 3A draw. The Eagles stormed through the playoffs by an average margin of victory of 25.2 points in 2011 and 28.6 points in 2012.
"I'm very encouraged by the togetherness, the chemistry. They're not giving up. They're not going to quit," Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said. "You look at the combined scores of the last two weeks [the Eagles lost, 48-6, at IC Catholic in Week 7], and we understand what that looks like.
"And it's not fun, you know, but yet I'm very encouraged. We'll get everybody back. We'll get everybody back in due time, in God's time, and we'll make a legitimate shot at this thing. And if it does happen to where we finish like we would want to, this will mean nothing."
With freshman call-up Ben Weerts again at quarterback in place of an injured Austin Bray (dislocated shoulder), Aurora Christian went three-and-out on its first five possessions. The Eagles registered their first first down with just under nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, as senior running back Legend Smith banged through the Broncos' defensive front for a 23-yard gain to put Aurora Christian inside Montini territory for the first time.
"I mean, it brought us up, it felt good and all, but we've still got to build off of that, you know. Follow through," Smith said. "It was there. We've just got to pull through."
The drive ended about 90 seconds later when Broncos senior defensive back Joshua Belt intercepted Weerts. Montini scored its sixth unanswered touchdown with 5:55 before halftime, surging ahead, 42-0, with the point-after and triggering the running clock.
The romp started early. Tyler Tumpane raced 46 yards up the right sideline with an Alex Wills screen pass for the Broncos' first touchdown on their second offensive snap.
Montini actually turned in a three-and-out of its own on its sixth possession, as Wills threw a trio of incompletions. The Eagles' ensuing special teams woes made that sequence easy to forget. A high punt snap and a fumbled kickoff return paved the way for two Broncos TDs in a 1:03 span early in the second quarter.
"You know, they're one of our friend schools, so it's always good to play them, but yeah, it did feel a little weird with them being short on injuries," Broncos junior kicker Mason Weissenhoffer said. "But, you know, they came out, they gave a great game with what they had, and we look forward to playing them in the future years when they're healthy."
While that's a sentiment the Eagles undoubtedly share, the Eagles foresee a much shorter window before they're ready to click again. On the sideline, players and coaches talked about being healthy for "Week 1." Not kickoff for the 2014 season, mind you, but the upcoming playoffs.
"We're a good team. We're going to probably get out of this. It's just injuries and all that," Kuhn said. "It's fine. It's making us stronger, actually, because we're finding all these backups. So we'll be good."
MONTINI 49, AURORA CHRISTIAN 0
Montini 21 21 7 0 – 49 ACS 0 0 0 0 – 0
HOW THEY SCORED
FIRST QUARTER M – Tumpane 46 pass from Wills (Weissenhofer kick), 9:46 M – Italia 14 run (Weissenhofer kick), 5:45 M – Italia 7 run (Weissenhofer kick), 2:04SECOND QUARTER M – Italia 7 run (Weissenhofer kick), 10:56 M – Walker 21 run (Weissenhofer kick), 9:53 M – Walker 41 run (Weissenhofer kick), 5:55THIRD QUARTER M – Norgle III 5 run (Weissenhofer kick), 4:45
RUSHING – Montini: Italia 9-65, Walker 2-62, Norgle III 11-56, Reed 4-20, Maloney 1-14 Millikan 1-11, Dennis 1-10, Thornton III 1-8. Totals: 30-246. Aurora Christian: Smith 18-51, Mobley 7-13, Velarde 2-(-27). Totals: 27-37.
PASSING – Montini: Willis 4-8-85-1-0, Norgle III 1-1-8-0-0. Aurora Christian: Weerts 2-11-26-0-1.
RECEIVING – Montini: Tumpane 1-46, Thornton III 2-30, Italia 1-11, Lane 1-8. Aurora Christian: Barrett 1-20, Bosek 1-6.
Total yards: Montini 339, Aurora Christian 63.
Sophomore game: Montini 38, Aurora Christian 28