It took 39 years for a high school football team to win the City of Lights’ first state championship. Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe hopes No. 2 doesn’t take nearly as long.
His 8-1 Eagles learned Saturday night they will open defense of their IHSA Class 3A title next weekend at home against 6-3 Chicago Raby. Aurora Christian, a No. 4 seed in the upper half of its 32-team bracket, was one of nine area teams learning its first-round draws in the postseason during the televised pairings show.
Undefeated Kaneland and Batavia drew No. 1 seeds in Classes 5A and 7A, respectively. Waubonsie Valley (8-1) is No. 4 in the bottom half of the 8A bracket that has Upstate Eight Valley rival Neuqua Valley as the No. 1 seed.
“We’re certainly going to try (to repeat). But it takes a lot of breaks and playing great football at the right time to win one. Bad weather, turnovers, so many things can happen, but I certainly like our chance,” said Beebe, who just tuned in to learn his opponent.
“My brother (and defensive coordinator) Dave and I used to sit down with great passion and try to figure it out. This year, we ate and waited until 8:20 (p.m.).”
Beebe knows nothing about undefeated Elmwood-Brimfield Co-op, who is the top seed on his side of the bracket. Beating Raby will give the Eagles a game with the winner of North Boone (8-1) and Immaculate Conception (6-3), a team ACS beat 47-20 in a conference crossover game.
“Ultimately, the 3A title goes through Aurora Christian,” said Aurora Central coach Brian Casey, whose team is in the lower half of ACS’s bracket and opens on the road against No. 3 seed St. Joseph Ogden, which is just east of Champaign.
“From that standpoint, we don’t have to play a defending state champ the first week, which is something we thought might happen,” continued Casey, whose program is making its first playoff appearance since 1997.
“But I was thrown a little. I figured they’d divide us in eight-team quadrants instead of 1 through 16. We’ll enjoy the fact that it’s another team.”
Waubonsie Valley will open with No. 13 seed Proviso West.
“We’ve never played them before but we have seen them in 7-on-7s in the summer at Downers Grove South,” said Warriors coach Paul Murphy. “We’re happy we can play them at home and we’ll see how the rest of their team stacks up. (Class) 8A is loaded is all I can say.”
In Class 7A, Upstate Eight River champion Batavia will open with No. 8 seed Downers Grove North (5-4) in a division that features four eight-team quadrants. Oswego is the No. 3 seed in the same bracket and gets a rematch with Southwest Prairie Conference member Plainfield North in the opener.
“It does happen,” Oswego coach Brian Cooney said of first-round matchups with teams you’ve played before. “We played well that first time but we’re not gonna underestimate anyone.”
Kaneland draws 5-4 Belvidere in a rematch of last year’s first-round game the Knights won in a 51-45 shootout.
“They play a lot 7A teams in their conferernce and it prepares them well,” said Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly.
Marian Central is No. 2 in the bottom half of the Knights’ side of their bracket.
In Class 4A, both Sandwich and Plano drew perennial powerhouses who have done well in the playoffs. Sandwich is a No. 3 seed in its eight-team quadrant and opens with 5-4 Geneseo with a rematch with the winner of Interstate Eight rivals Peotone and Coal City on the line.
Plano drew the fifth seed and opens with No. 4 Stillman Valley. The winner of a battle between top seed Rock Island Alleman and Manteno awaits.
In Class 1A, Gary Urwiler’s Mooseheart club is the No. 3 seed in the bottom half of the 16-team bracket that features Northeastern Athletics Conference champ Ottawa Marquette at No. 1. The one-loss Red Ramblers were No. 2 in the league and open with Warren, from the northwest corner of the state.
“I know nothing about them or the other two teams (Toulon Stark City and Monmouth United) we would play if we advance,” said Urwiler.