On any given Friday, high school football can be a game of inches.
Those close calls, Aurora Christian’s David Beebe learned Saturday, can seem like miles to coaches of 5-4 teams playing the waiting game to learn if they’ve made it into the state playoff field.
“I just set off my defibrillator. What a day,” said Beebe, tongue in cheek, shortly after seeing the IHSA’s online post confirming his Eagles were the final team to make this year’s field of 256.
Aurora Christian defeated Leo 49-35 Friday to become playoff eligible, then made it into the postseason tournament by the slimmest of margins.
They were one of five 5-4 teams with 39 playoff points (opponents’ wins) vying for the final berth. The next tiebreaker, defeated opponents’ wins, left Beebe’s team and Wheaton Academy tied with 16 each.
The third tiebreaker, having played more playoff teams during the season, went to the Eagles 4-3.
What’s even crazier is how Aurora Christian got to 39 points to even be in this hunt.
“Urban Prep/Bronzeville, who we beat in the second week of the season, only had an eight-game schedule up until last week,” Beebe said. “They were 0-8 but were able to schedule Chicago Collins for the final week of the season. Collins didn’t show, though, and had to forfeit.”
It became Bronzeville’s lone win and the point that kept Eagles’ hopes alive.
“That’s the irony of this whole thing after we played such a hard schedule moving to the Catholic League White this year,” he said. “But playing those four playoff teams really helped us. And Senn, another team we beat, had six wins and didn’t make the playoffs.
As the last team in, Beebe knew he would draw a top seed in the first round and thought it would be either Sterling Newman or Wilmington. He was correct, as the Eagles drew the former, a 9-0 team that is also the defending state Class 2A champs.
Aurora Christian is one of 10 area teams making the playoffs (see adjoining chart for first-round matchups), down from an all-time best 12 that made it last year.
Defending Class 6A champ Batavia moved up to 7A this year and drew a third seed and no favors with first-round foe and perennial powerhouse Mount Carmel. The Caravan, winners of 12 state titles, had to beat defending Class 8A runnerup Loyola Academy to go 5-4 and squeeze into the playoffs, albeit with 49 playoff points due to a brutal Catholic League Blue schedule.
To get back to the state finals, the Bulldogs will likely have to get past once-beaten No. 2 LincolnWay East and once-beaten top seed Providence.
In Class 8A, Waubonsie Valley and Oswego both drew top seeds. The IHSA went against the grain when it scheduled the Warriors to play District 204 sister school, conference rival and fifth-seeded Metea Valley in a first-round rematch.
The Warriors squeaked by 38-37 in the first meeting.
In Class 4A, Plano drew a 12th seed and Aurora Central 13th. If they can upset fifth-seeded Phillips and fourth-seeded Johnsburg, respectively, the teams could meet in the second round at Plano.
Phillips has allowed just 33 points all season and has wins over defending Class 3A champ Stillman Valley (2-7) and Class 8A Naperville North.