Football: Scouting the Class 3A state championship
Class 3A championship
Aurora Christian (12-1) at Tolono-Unity (12-1)
Game time: 4 p.m. Friday, University of Illinois Memorial Stadium, Champaign.
Road to the championship: A No. 4 seed in the northern half of the 3A bracket, Aurora Christian beat No. 13 Raby 49-12, No. 12 Immaculate Conception 28-21, No. 9 Winnebago 49-14 and No. 2 Newman Central Catholic 41-7. One of two No. 2 seeds in the regionally seeded southern half, Unity beat No. 7 Pana 46-8, No. 3 Pleasant Plains 22-7, No. 1 Williamsville 10-7 and another No. 1 seed, Greenville, 56-21.
Coaches: Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe is 87-22 in nine seasons coaching the Eagles, reaching the playoffs each time. A former star NFL receiver and Kaneland graduate, Beebe has led Aurora Christian to a 21-7 playoff record, winning last year's 3A title and placing second in 4A in 2008. Unity coach Scott Hamilton is 186-42 in 19 seasons all at Tolono, never falling under .500. Hamilton has taken the Comets to the playoffs 17 seasons, the last 16 straight, with a combined 37-16 playoff record. Unity, which lost 50-26 to Aurora Christian in last season's semifinals, makes its fourth title-game appearance after runner-up finishes in 2000, 2005 and 2009.
Aurora Christian Tolono-Unity
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Ryan McQuade 6-4 196 Sr. QB Justin Deters 6-1 180 Jr.
Joel Bouagnon 6-2 227 Sr. FB/RBConner Grace 5-11 185 Jr.
Brandon Mayes 5-11 182 Sr. RB Tyler Lindsey 5-9 205 Jr.
Chad Beebe 5-9 165 Sr. WR Micah Johnson 6-1 185 Sr.
Cory Windle 6-4 190 Sr. WR Derek Hooker 6-5 170 Sr.
Ryan Suttle 5-11 181 Sr. TE Hiley Freeman 6-2 195 So.
Josh Kok 6-4 258 Sr. LT Kendall Neverman 6-6 230 Sr.
Eric Motisi 5-10 201 Sr. LG Joel Ping 5-11 195 Sr.
Tristan Withrow 5-10 234 Jr. C Cameron Swearingen 6-1 290 Sr.
Nathan Wells 6-0 245 Jr. RG Dalton Grimm 5-10 190 Jr.
Jackson Carpenter 6-3 201 Jr. RT Christian Moore 6-3 205 Sr.
Trevor Hills 5-10 155 So. K Cody Payne 5-11 160 Sr.
Aurora Christian Tolono-Unity
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Josh Kok 6-4 258 Sr. DE Anthony Vazquez 5-11 230 Jr.
Jon Czerwinski 5-8 183 Jr. NT Logan Sehie 6-7 330 Sr.
Jonah Walker 6-2 224 Jr. DE Jared Abrahamson 6-1 200 Sr.
Noah Roberts 6-2 184 Jr. LB Gage Bolt 6-0 200 Sr.
Ryan Suttle 5-11 181 Sr. LB Kolson McFall 5-10 175 Sr.
Joel Bouagnon 6-2 227 Sr. LB Colton Reed 5-9 185 So.
Brandon Mayes 5-11 182 Sr. LB Mitch Negangard 6-1 205 Sr.
Jackson Carpenter 6-3 201 Jr. LB/S Cody Payne 5-11 160 Sr.
Brandon Walgen 6-1 179 Jr. S Conner Grace 5-11 185 Jr.
Legend Smith 5-8 162 Jr. CB Mitchell Snodgrass 5-11 150 Jr.
M.J. Zepeda 5-9 158 Jr. CB Michael Holladay 5-10 155 Sr.
Noah Roberts 6-2 184 Jr. P Derek Hooker 6-5 170 Sr.
Aurora Christian's offense (590 points, 45 points per game; 5,745 yards, 442 yards per game) against Unity's defense (223 points allowed, 17 points per game, 2,894 yards allowed, 222.6 per game): Don Beebe has what he wants but doesn't always get from his spread offense — an essentially balanced unit that's gained 2,732 yards on the ground and 3,013 through the air. He's got his 1,000-yard rusher in Bouagnon (1,380 yards, 19 touchdowns) and a nearly 3,000-yard passer in McQuade (2,913 yards, 42 TDs, 15 interceptions). Add Mayes (795 yards rushing, 6 TDs) spelling Bouagnon, the precision routes of receiver Chad Beebe (62 catches, 956 yards, 15 TDs) and deep threat Cory Windle (48 catches, 849 yards, 16 TDs) and the Eagles are often unstoppable. Unity's base 3-4 defense is headed by all-state linebacker Mitch Negangard, who leads the Rockets with 59 solo tackles. In Unity's semifinal win, the Champaign News-Gazette reported cornerback Michael Holladay returned an interception 23 yards to break open a 21-14 game, and fellow corner Mitchell Snodgrass returned another pick 22 yards to build the lead to 42-14. The Comets have allowed 1,300 yards rushing, 1,594 passing. Eagles offensive linemen Josh Kok and Eric Motisi faced Unity last year and know they must adjust on the fly when the Comets show something completely different — "just like they did last year," Don Beebe said.
Unity's offense (483 points, 37 points per game; 5,549 yards, 427 yards per game) against Aurora Christian's defense (150 points, 11.5 points per game; 2,840 yards, 218.5 yards per game): Scott Hamilton runs a multiple-formation option attack. He said he doesn't have the skill players Aurora Christian has, but their numbers are solid: 1,462 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns for Conner Grace; 1,272 yards, 15 TDs for quarterback Justin Deters; 947 yards, 12 TDs for fullback Negangard, a three-year starter who saw special teams action in Champaign in 2009. Unity also will utilize receiver Micah Johnson (31 catches, 670 yards, 9 TDs) on jet sweeps; he's run for 350 yards, 4 TDs. The Comets' yardage is heavily ground-based, but when Deters throws he averages about 18 yards a pop. Like Unity, Aurora Christian runs a 3-man front and each of those three men — Josh Kok, Jon Czerwinski, Jonah Walker — have downstate experience. The big key was the addition of Bouagnon to an already excellent defense with Mayes at safety. The hard-hitting Bouagnon has a team-high 122 tackles and 10.5 for loss; Mayes follows with 112 tackles and a team-high 16 for loss. The News-Gazette wrote that Unity held the ball more than 35 minutes, gaining 504 yards last week. In 2011 Aurora Christian allowed 332 yards to Tolono, second only to Montini's 411.
Intangibles: Unity certainly seeks revenge on last season's 50-26 loss to Aurora Christian in the state semifinals. The Rockets squandered leads of 14-0 early and 26-21 late, a botched punt and muffed kickoff helping the Eagles. The kicking game is somewhat of a wash statistically, though in a pinch Aurora Christian's Trevor Hills may try a 50-yard field goal. Last year Aurora Christian became the first Aurora team to win a state football championship; the Eagles must counter Unity's intensity, seeking a first title after three second-place finishes. Should Unity fall behind, Bouagnon and solid Aurora Christian defensive backs Noah Roberts, Legend Smith and M.J. Zepeda could make them pay; the Eagles have intercepted 14 passes this year and picked off Unity twice last year. In big games, Don Beebe said, "it comes down to turnover ratio."
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