So how does Aurora Christian come up with an encore to last year’s state title, the first in Aurora history, engineered by Division I quarterback Anthony Maddie (Western Michigan)?
Start with three Northern Illinois University recruits, take the strongest defense the Eagles have had in coach Don Beebe’s tenure, fill in with distinct line platoons on either side of the ball and then watch and see if senior and first-time varsity quarterback Ryan McQuade blossoms in the role.
Chances are, it’s gonna happen.
“That’s crazy, three guys on one team go to one (Division I) school? That’s got to be rare, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that,” said Beebe, whose son Chad (WR), Brandon Mayes (RB/FS) and Joel Bouagnon (RB/LB) have all verbally committed to coach Dave Doeren and the school in DeKalb.
There’s something even more important, though, if the Eagles are to have a shot at repeating.
“You come off a state championship or a great win or even a great play, you can start thinking you’re better than you really are, so I want the kids to know we’ve still gotta work hard to stay on the top and you’ve got to stay humble with that,” Don Beebe said.
“You’ve gotta stay hungry. You can get complacent real easy.”
Mayes, who was recruited for the NIU secondary, will lead the strong defense.
“He’s the (team leader) hands down,” Beebe said, “from an effort standpoint, emotional standpoint and talent standpoint. I mean everything. Brandon is the consummate captain guy.”
Suttle, who plays tight end and linebacker, will join Mayes as the only two full-time two-way players. Bouagnon, who is awaiting IHSA approval of his transfer from Burlington Central, will play on both sides but be spelled when the offense goes with its spread.
“We’ve never been close to that (two full platoons),” Beebe said.
“We’ve had some really good defenses through the years. Our defense has played really well. But the 11 guys we’ll put out there (this year), we literally do not have a weak position.
“(Junior DE) Jonah Walker could start at offensive lineman. (Junior LB) Jack Carpenter could start at O-line and (senior NG) Nick Larson has started on our offensive line and none of those guys are playing on the offensive line (this year). They’re all defensive guys, which bodes very well. Going just one way on is huge in the line. I think that’s what has made teams like (fellow SCC Blue power and 5A state champ) Montini so good (over the years).”
The 6-foot-4 McQuade played QB at the JV level two years ago but moved to wideout when the talented Maddie came in. He won the starter’s job this summer and appears to have gotten better in camp.
“I’m really excited about how he’s progressed,” said Don Beebe. “I didn’t think he’d get to the level he’s playing at right now. He’s been behind great kids but he moves very well in the pocket. He’s a smart guy and cerebral, as good as I’ve ever had.
“I can read off a play that’s a few sentences long and he grasps it (immediately). That’s a gift, I can’t do it. All our QBs have been smart but he may take the cake. Now, we’ll see how he plays. You really don’t know until you get in the heat of the fire.”