The numbers don’t lie. They merely confirm what Aurora Christian assistant coach Dave Beebe already knew, that Brandon Mayes has been special this season for his defense.
“It’s kind of an algorithm I use, kind of like the quarterback rating,” Beebe said of the formula he has developed to give his players a grade each game.
It’s based on their performance in a number of categories like tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, tackles for loss, passes deflected and interceptions.
Mayes, a senior who is listed as a free safety, has a team-high season grade of 93.42. Linebacker Joel Bouagnon is next at 90.25.
To put those in perspective, Beebe has been keeping the grades going back to 2004 when he joined his brother Don’s new staff at the school. In those nine years, “there were only five other guys who had a grade of 90 or more for a season. It’s not necessarily how good they play, but more a reflection of their impact on the game.”
Mayes could just as easily be called a monster back because he will line up as a cover corner, move into the box as a linebacker with coverage or blitz responsibilities and then help stuff the run from any of the aforementioned spots.
He ranks second on the team with 102 tackles and is tied with Ryan Perik (2006-08) for first on the school’s career tackles list with 306. Mayes also has a team-high 15 tackles for loss, second only in school history to the 16 Kenny McCracken had last year.
“He’s been a three-year starter,” Dave Beebe said. “When he was a sophomore, he was a free safety and you can see it in the numbers. His sophomore and junior years he was higher in passes deflected and interceptions. This year, he has more big hits and tackles for losses.
“No. 1, it’s because he’s bigger and stronger. He came in at 150 pounds, but he’s always been aggressive. As he’s grown, I’ve tried to exploit his ability.”
While noting the final grade may be important, Mayes said he looks at two categories in his coach’s calculations first.
“Missed assignments and missed tackles,” he said. “If we don’t have those, we stop the other team, so we hone in on them the most.”
Mayes has had 10 missed tackles and just six missed assignments.
As for the TFL total, Mayes thanks Beebe for allowing him to blitz more this year but also credits the guys up front — Jon Czerwinski, Jonah Walker, Jackson Carpenter, Josh Kok and Nick Larson.
“They’re so unselfish, the way they play, looking to take up guys and occupy them and make it easier for the linebackers to make plays,” Mayes said. “I feel like when I’m in that box, if I’m a safety I have to make the safe tackle (and stop a big play) or if I’m a linebacker I have to knock somebody down.”
Dave Beebe said the development of players like Noah Roberts and Brandon Walgren at safety allows him to deploy Mayes all over the field. Walgren, for example, scored out at a team-high 97 in last week’s quarterfinal playoff win over Winnebago.
Mayes and Bouagnon also both play running back for the Eagles, and have rushed for 750 and 1,260 yards, respectively. Both have committed to Northern Illinois University, where they plan to room together and where the coaching staff projects Mayes as a DB and Bouagnon as a RB.
“I don’t see (Mayes) as a linebacker (in college), but you have to have good run defense to have a good defense and the corners have gotta be good at run stopping,” Dave Beebe said. “Brandon will fill that position well.”
Don Beebe isn’t surprised.
“Brandon has been great for us for four years,” the head coach said. “We brought him up (to varsity) as a sophomore because we knew we had a superstar in the making.
“He’s all over the field making plays. You look at his rushing totals, he’s over 100 tackles and he has 25 pass receptions, too. What makes it even more remarkable is that it’s not been done on a team where he’s the one dominant player. There are a lot of star players on this team and those are just crazy stats.”
What may impress Don Beebe the most is Mayes’ strength.
“He’s about 180 pounds but he can bench press over 300 pounds and squat over 400,” the former NFL wide receiver said. “(Mayes) doesn’t look (super strong) because he’s such a wiry guy, but he is strong. When he goes in as a fullback and takes the lead blocking role for Joel (Bouagnon), it’s something to see. He’s really good at it.”