It’s bubble time for Aurora Christian.
“This is uncharted territory for us,” said first-year Eagles coach David Beebe, who served as defensive coordinator for brother Don when the team made the playoffs 10 straight years, extending the program streak to 12.
Aurora Christian plays host Friday to Leo in a Catholic League White matchup of 4-4 teams, each needing a win to become playoff eligible. The Eagles enter with 36 playoff points (opponent wins) and the Lions have 30.
“Even if we win, there is no guarantee we’re in, but the numbers look pretty good,” David Beebe said. “I’m happy for these kids. They’ve played a really tough schedule and I’m hoping they can get in.”
With the move to the Catholic League, the Eagles have stepped up in class. This is only the second opponent from their class, 3A, they’ve faced this season. The other seven have ranged from 5A to 7A (St. Rita).
“It’s been rough, but the kids have really withstood it well,” Beebe said. “Every game, except (last week’s 56-0 loss to) Marmion, has been decided in the fourth quarter. We were even leading in the fourth against St. Rita.”
Quarterback Austin Bray and wide receiver/linebacker Zach Bosek both left last week’s loss to Marmion early with left ankle injuries. Neither will be 100 percent but both are going to give it a go and try to play.
Bray, who has passed for more than 1,700 yards, leads the offense. Bosek is Beebe’s leading tackler.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Beebe said.
Where’s the beef?
Leo’s line, Beebe noted, is mammoth. It includes 6-4, 385-pound Raheem Williams, 6-2, 350-pound Dellvon Cannon and 6-3, 410-pound Daylan Franklin.
The Eagles will have to use an edge in quickness to their advantage, but “they bring some really, really good athletes, too,” Beebe said. “They’ve got several players that can be go all the way on any given play. I won’t be comfortable all game.”
Metea Valley breaks out
Last week’s win over Glenbard East guaranteed Metea Valley coach Ben Kleinhans and the young program’s first winning season. Next up? Very likely the playoffs, although he would like to guarantee it with the school’s first win over district rival Neuqua Valley on Friday.
“Last week was a special moment,” Kleinhans said. “That fifth win was like getting the so-called monkey off your back. It felt great.
“We enter this week with 37 playoff points and we’re guaranteed 40, which I think puts us in a pretty good spot (if they finish 5-4), but we’d like to get the sixth win.”
In previous years, Kleinhans said the Mustangs weren’t in the same league with district rivals Waubonsie and Neuqua. They’ve never beaten either team but gave the Warriors a scare this season before dropping a 38-37 decision.
“Those two schools are where we want to be,” he said. “They’re well-coached, they have consistent talent coming through, and they do the reloading, not rebuilding, each year.”
Plenty of firepower
Kleinhans hasn’t been surprised by his team’s offensive firepower. They’ve topped 40 points in each of their five wins and have outscored foes 294-186.
“We have three-year starters in (wide receiver) Nick Dodson, left tackle Brett Boddy and center Matt Fitzgerald and the rest of our starters on the line are in their second year,” he said. “We have quite a bit of depth on that side of the ball.”
Workhorse running back Bryson Oliver and strong play from quarterback Kyle Mooney gives the coach a solid core of three standouts to build his offense around.
Dodson, slowed this summer by thumb surgery and early in the season with a strained leg muscle, has come on strong of late.
His physical struggles, “actually were good for us to develop some other options,” Kleinhans said. “But last Friday, Nick was the best player on the field.”
Mooney is a first-year starter, but he’s been impressive, throwing for 1,468 yards with 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
“Two of those (picks) were from the Waubonsie Valley game,” Kleinhans said. “The one was just a great play by their kid (on defense). The other was a bad call by me. Kyle has met and exceeded everything I had hoped for from him. The kids really have a lot of faith in him.”
Speaking of picks
Batavia junior defensive back Brett Bowman leads all area defenders with seven interceptions. Second in the area is Plano’s Javi Corral with six, while Batavia’s Eddie Golden, Aurora Central’s Brendan Ruehl and Waubonsie Valley’s Max Ihry each have four.