From the time Aurora Christian learned that they had a rematch against the team that eliminated them from the state playoffs last year, that is how the Eagles players broke every huddle during their off-season training, beat Stillman. Friday night the Eagles did more than talk about it, they accomplished it shutting out the Cardinals in the second half and pulling away to a convincing 38-20 victory to open the season.
"They are a giant of a program, we took down a giant today," said Aurora Christian head coach Don Beebe. "It's all we've talked about, we were so ready for this game. It is because of the respect we have for them, we got pounded last year and we didn't want it to happen again and it was pretty impressive, to shut them down in the second half is pretty impressive."
In the first half, it looked like Stillman Valley might just keep doing what they always do, running it right at people. The Cardinals put together a scoring drive of 17 plays and followed that up with a 16-play drive in which they converted four fourth down situations and just kept moving the chains and eventually punched it in. When the Eagles committed a late turnover that Stillman Valley turned into a touchdown just before the half to take a 20-14 lead, it looked like the Eagles had no answer for the Cardinal ground game.
The Cardinals took the second half kick off and started right down the field again but his time when they went for it on fourth and 10, Eagle linebacker Ryan Suttle sacked Cardinal QB Jeff Cialkowski forcing a turnover on downs.
"It was frustrating that we couldn't get them off of the field," said Beebe. "Suttle got the sack and that might have been the play of the game."
That put the ball into the capable hands of Eagle quarterback Anthony Maddie. Maddie already had a TD pass and TD run to his credit in the first half and he wasted little time moving the ball down the field and finishing the drive with an electrifying 17-yard TD run that gave Aurora Christian a 21-20 lead.
Stillman Valley decided to put the ball in the air on its next drive and AC junior Brandon Mayes picked off a pass and returned it into Stillman Valley territory just before the end of the third quarter. Maddie again rewarded his teams defensive efforts by throwing a fade that Cory Windle went up and grabbed for a 6 yard touchdown and a 28-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Stillman Valley, averaging over four yards a rush in the fist half, rushed for just 12 yards and had only two first downs in the second half.
"We knew this was going to be a war," said Beebe. "I made them all look me in the eye at halftime and I told them if we can get them to third and seven or longer, we will win this football game. This game is played on emotion and what changed was our attitude. The momentum changed on that sack on fourth down and from that point on we were all over them."
Every time Stillman gave the ball back to Maddie, he made them pay. Maddie finished the game with three rushing touchdowns and had two more through the air, rushing for 64 yards and throwing for 282 more.
"The kid is a special athlete, he makes this team go," said Beebe. "And tonight he was so sharp mentally, he called some audibles that just killed them and that is huge."
"We knew coming in this was going to be a big battle," said Maddie. "We knew they we're going to try and keep our offense off the field, we knew that once we got that one stop in the second half, that was big for us and then we just kept going."
All the offensive wrinkles in the world a team tries to implement don't mean a thing if the team then goes and executes poorly.
Mooseheart 48, Alden-Hebron 7: So it is a testament to the collective abilities of Mooseheart's offense that the no-huddle approach and the spread offensive system perplexed only Alden-Hebron on Friday night. The Ramblers' rolled up 448 yards of offense and defeated the visiting Giants 48-7.
"We put this whole new system in and they grasped it quickly," Mooseheart coach Gary Urwiler said. "They executed extremely well, from our line to our skill players. When you have as many people touching the ball and making big plays as we did -- we are going to be tough. For the first game of the year, it came together nicely."
The decision to add some different looks to Mooseheart's offense came in the offseason, and the Ramblers moved the ball well from their opening drive through the end of the fourth quarter, when the second string offense was playing.
"My teammates and I, we've been working hard all summer long," Mooseheart senior Noel Yarngo said. "We worked in camps, combines and in seven-on-seven competitions. I'm just glad that we had a victory today."
Yarngo caught three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Jon Hart in the first half as the Ramblers moved to a 19-0 lead. Hart finished the game 16-for-21 for 224 yards and the three TD passes to Yarngo.
"It's fun," Hart said. "Everyone's been working hard. Tonight, it just paid off."
Hart threw passes to five different receivers and nine different Mooseheart players ran the ball in the contest.
-- Darryl Mellema