AURORA – During last week's convincing first-round playoff win over IC Catholic Prep, Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe said two-way starter Brandon Walgren played one of the best games – if not the best game – in Eagles history.
Walgren had quite the encore performance Saturday night as Aurora Christian moved on to the IHSA Class 3A quarterfinals with a 49-20, running-clock blowout of visiting Oregon. The senior wideout/safety caught a pair of touchdown passes from Austin Bray and also connected on a touchdown pass of his own – a 30-yard strike to freshman Zach Bosek – to help blow open the game, as Aurora Christian scored 28 second quarter points.
Walgren’s second touchdown catch came after Aurora Christian got the ball back on its own 36 with just 13 seconds to go in the first half. After a quick 21-yard hookup between Bray and Walgren, the junior quarterback found Walgren on a 44-yard bomb as time expired to give the Eagles a 35-7 lead and all of the momentum going into the second half.
“He was bailing off pretty good – he was a good 15 or 20 yards off of me – I just sold him inside and went back out and Austin just put the ball on me and I made the catch,” Walgren said. “It was a great throw. It’s just an exciting time to see and play with all of the starters back on the field.”
The injury bug hit the Eagles (8-3) hard the last four weeks of the regular season. Slowly, starters have found their way back to the lineup, with Bray one of several to return last week against IC Catholic.
Bray hooked up on touchdown passes of 45 and 44 yards with Walgren and found Legend Smith on a 56-yard screen pass on Aurora Christian’s first play from scrimmage in the second half to give the Eagles a 42-7 lead.
Oregon (6-5) couldn’t keep up with Aurora Christian’s quick-strike offense as the Hawks’ own offensive unit relies almost exclusively on the run. The Hawks actually scored on their opening possession, marching 73 yards on 18 plays, converting on fourth-and-goal from the Aurora Christian 4 as Tyler Blume found Pierce Dhaese in the middle of the end zone.
Oregon’s lengthy drive took nearly 10 minutes off the clock while converting three times on fourth down. After the score, the Aurora Christian defense didn’t permit a first down the remainder of the first half as the Eagles blew the game open.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came as Walgren took a Bray pass behind the line of scrimmage and threw a 30-yard dart to Bosek. The play made it 21-7 and seemingly sucked the air out of the Oregon sideline.
“They drove it down and got two or three fourth-down conversions, and we couldn’t get them off the field,” Beebe said of Oregon’s first drive. “We had to make a decision: we’re going to turn this into a track meet or we’re going to get a little more fired up on defense and start to stop them. And from that point on, they didn’t get a first down the remainder of the half. ”
Bray finished 8 for 11 for 213 yard in the first half with the pair of scoring strikes to Walgren. The screen-pass touchdown to Smith that opened the third quarter was Bray’s last from scrimmage as Aurora Christian forced a running clock, allowing Beebe to insert freshman Ben Weerts, the quarterback that helped Aurora Christian when Bray was out with a dislocated shoulder.
“I feel pretty good about the chemistry of the team and I’ve always said that that’s the number one ingredient in winning,” Beebe said. “This team has that great chemistry, and I’m very excited about that.”
Aurora Christian will now focus its attention on a trip to Seneca in the quarterfinals. Seneca blew out Chicago Robeson on Saturday, 46-6.
Beebe hopes that Noah Roberts and Jackson Carpenter will be able to return from injury as the Eagles continue gunning for their third straight 3A state title.
AURORA CHRISTIAN 49, OREGON 20
Aurora Christian 7 28 14 0 – 49
Oregon 7 0 7 6 – 20
HOW THEY SCORED
OR – Dhaese 3 pass from Blume (Reynolds kick), 2:44
AC – Bray 3 run (Hills kick), 0:39
AC – Walgren 45 pass from Bray (Hills kick), 10:24
AC – Bosek 30 pass from Walgren (Hills kick), 6:45
AC – Smith 1 run (Hills kick), 3:27
AC – Walgren 44 pass from Bray (Hills kick), 0:00
AC – Smith 56 pass from Bray (Hills kick), 11:38
AC – Smith 1 run (Hills kick), 8:35
OR – Bettner 3 run (Reynolds kick), 3:31
OR – Reynolds 2 run (kick failed), 7:59
RUSHING – Aurora Christian: Smith 11-70, Bray 1-3, Wiggins 10-46, Weerts 1- minus 9, Ja. Smith 1-12. Totals: 24-122. Oregon: Rutherford 11-121, Rude 8-12, Newman 11-67, Reynolds 14-40, Finch 1-36, Bettner 1-3, Blume 1-2. Totals: 47-281.
PASSING – Aurora Christian: Bray 8-12-380, Walgren 1-1-30, Weerts 0-1-0. Oregon: Blume 3-6-29
RECEIVING – Aurora Christian: Walgren 6-174, Hagerty 1-9, Bosek 1-30, Smith 1-56 Oregon: Dhaese 1-3, Reynolds 1-8, Diehl 1-18
TOTAL YARDS – Aurora Christian 532, Oregon 310