Strong 2nd half sends Wheaton Academy past Aurora Christian

Wheaton Academy's football team got exactly what it wanted Friday night against Aurora Christian.

Limited by turnovers and penalties while taking an uneasy 7-3 lead into the halftime locker room, the Warriors (8-1) regrouped and outscored the Eagles 17-0 in the second half during their 24-3 Metro Suburban Conference crossover victory at Performance Trust Field in West Chicago.

"This is exactly the type of game we needed going into next week," said Warriors coach Jim Johanik, whose team will likely host a first-round Class 4A state playoff game next weekend.

Wheaton Academy grabbed an early 7-0 lead on its first possession, as quarterback Belay Brummel (19 for 28, 211 yards) tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Breck Peacock (10 catches, 110 yards) to cap a 7-play, 55-yard drive.

The Eagles (5-4), however, were not deterred, closing the gap to 7-3 on a 26-yard field goal by freshman Zach Zappia midway through the second quarter.

Late in the half, sophomore Jonan Miceli's interception ended a potential Warrior drive, as the Eagles stayed within striking distance at the intermission.

"There's always a lot of emotion with this game," said Johanik. "This is our rivalry game. They're a 5-3 program, but you look at the size of their line and you're going to have a ballgame."

The Eagles began the second half with a momentum boost, thanks to Owen Hampton's interception near midfield on the Warriors' opening possession.

Four first downs later, Aurora Christian had the ball at the Warriors' 22-yard line before Brandon Kiebles' interception thwarted a potential go-ahead score by the visitors.

From there, the Warriors compiled a 12-play, 91-yard drive, capped by Gavin Pedone's 40-yard touchdown run, to extend their lead to 14-3 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

Wheaton Academy converted 3 third-down plays during the drive, highlighted by Brummel's 13-yard pass to Brett Kasper on 3rd-and-10 near midfield.

"That 91-yard drive was a big result of our linemen doing their jobs," said Pedone, who ran for 68 yards on 10 carries. "All credit to the linemen there. I saw nothing but green grass. I broke one tackle, but it was really all the line there."

Declan Finnegan booted a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 17-3 before Pedone's 2-yard TD run with 1:48 remaining sealed the deal for the Warriors.

"I'm still waiting for us to put an entire game together," said Eagles coach David Beebe, whose team now awaits Saturday's playoff pairings. "I thought the defense played well the entire game, but the offense really stalled in the second half.

"My message to the kids was threefold - first, I was super proud of the way they played. We went toe-to-toe with them. Two, it's not good enough. I'm not into moral victories - that doesn't win football games. We are still a better team than we think we are, but we've got to learn how good we are. And number three, the biggest message is we're 0-0 right now. This is a brand new season."

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