Don Beebe knows a thing or two about the importance of defense, even though he spent his entire decorated career playing wide receiver.
But after Aurora Christian limited Immaculate Conception to a lone first down before halftime during the Eagles' 47-20 Suburban Christian Conference crossover, Beebe was certain of a conviction first gleamed last summer.
"This is the best defensive team we've ever had," said Beebe, who took over the program in 2004. "We won that football game because of the way we played on defense in the first half."
In racking up a commanding advantage in both total yards and first downs, 340-63 and 22-1, respectively, the Eagles, the Associated Press' top-ranked football team in Class 3A, cruised to their 17th consecutive victory after taking a 35-7 lead into halftime.
Joel Bouagnon, the senior transfer from Burlington Central, is one of three two-way players for Aurora Christian.
Offensively, Bouagnon was a monster, carrying 17 times for a game-high 199 yards; he added 19 yards receiving while scoring twice.
Bouagnon was also all over the place defensively as the Eagles' middle linebacker.
"That's just the mentality of the defense," Bouagnon said of its stinginess. "Don't give up any yards. It was smash-mouth football on both sides."
Immaculate Conception (4-3), which dropped its third straight loss, opened the game with a successful onside kick.
But the Knights' seven first-half drives included 4 punts and a pair of turnovers.
Randy Leslie rumbled 26 yards off left tackle three plays for not only the first IC score but also its only first down of the opening half.
"We didn't come out ready to play," IC quarterback Demetrius Carr said ."We didn't match their intensity. We have to get it back as we move toward the playoffs."
The Leslie touchdown was virtually a footnote to an otherwise clinic by Aurora Christian (7-0).
Ryan McQuade hit Cory Windle with back-to-back scoring receptions to give Aurora Christian a first-quarter lead never to be relinquished.
After Leslie sliced the Knights' deficit in half, Aurora Christian responded with three straight scoring drives to put the game out of reach.
Victor Rosa plowed in from 2 yards out for the first score; Bouagnon followed suit from the same distance to make it 29-7, and Brandon Mayes, who complemented Bouagnon with 84 yards on 9 touches, plunged in from a yard out in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
Sam Antes' 2-yard touchdown run capped an impressive 90-yard IC march to open the third, but Aurora Christian needed only 6 plays to tally twice more.