Aurora Christian tops Marian Central, stays perfect in Chicagoland Christian Conference

Marian Central coach Liam Kirwan had a simple message for his team, which trailed 21-0 at halftime against Aurora Christian: Believe.

The Hurricanes entered Friday's Chicagoland Christian Conference contest needing two wins in their last three regular-season games to make the postseason for the first time in six seasons.

Marian responded with the first 22 points after halftime, scoring on three straight possessions, and looked poised to get at least one of those wins.

But the Eagles, on the big-play arm of quarterback Jalen Carter and all-around play from center-middle linebacker Rudy Griffing, were just too much for the Hurricanes.

Aurora Christian responded to Marian's second-half run and held on to win 40-28, improving to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the CCC.

The Hurricanes (3-4, 3-2) will need to win their final two games against St. Edward and Wheaton Academy to become playoff eligible for the first time since 2017.

"My message was pretty simple," Kirwan said. "Nothing too crazy, I just I believe in every single one of these guys. They were confident, and they believed in themselves. I think you saw the difference in just the matter of them getting it done.

"But you've got to believe yourself in the first half, too. You can't just assume things are going to go OK."

Marian struggled to moved the ball in the first half, outside of a long drive that went almost 70 yards on its opening possession. That drive ended with an interception in the end zone.

The second half was a different story.

Marian quarterback Cale McThenia found wide receiver Tyson Jakubowicz for a 72-yard touchdown with 7:14 left in the third. On the next possession, McThenia hit Clemson commit Christian Bentancur for a 21-yard score to cut the lead to 21-14.

On Marian's next possession, it was Bentancur again scoring on a 3-yard pass from McThenia (411 passing yards, 4 touchdowns). The Hurricanes then got a two-point conversion on a pass from kicker Andrew Thielsen to Bentacur to go up 22-21 with 11:56 left in the fourth.

"It was just more confidence and more energy in the guys," McThenia, a Northern Iowa commit, said of the second-half surge. "The coaching staff got it on us at halftime. Just lifting each other up. You can just see how much these guys care. We've just got to stay focused to get to two more wins."

Aurora Christian was led by Carter, who threw for four touchdowns and added another on the ground, totaling 302 yards.

After Marian went ahead 22-21, the Eagles responded with the next two touchdowns, both throws from Carter to wide receiver Owen Hampton (89 yards, 3 TDs).

Hampton's last touchdown came after Aurora Christian got a blocked punt from Griffing, who was all over the field defensively and there whenever the Eagles needed a big play.

"Rudy is an every-down guy for us," Aurora Christian coach Dave Beebe said. "He's pick up your pail and go to work. He was a little kid that was running around as a water boy 15 years ago, and now he's playing in his senior year, and he's playing great."

Carter said he envisioned the Eagles winning at least eight regular-season games this year. With wins in their last two games, they could get there.

"We talked about it at halftime, we knew [Marian] was going to come out and make plays," Carter said. "We just had to stay focused. We knew we still had it [the win] with the way we play, and that's what we did."

For Marian, Bentancur had 16 catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Jakubowicz had 102 yards receiving.

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