In the first half of Saturday's Class 3A second-round playoff game Immaculate Conception held Aurora Christian wide receiver Cory Windle without a catch.
In the second half Windle's 46- and 26-yard touchdown catches made the difference on the scoreboard in No. 4 seed Aurora Christian's 28-21 victory at Lewis Stadium in Elmhurst.
"(Eagles coach Don Beebe) noticed it and he was like, 'We need to get Cory the ball.' But we were having such a good running game that we wanted to run the ball a lot, and that opened up the long plays," said Windle, who caught 4 passes for 92 yards.
Between quarterback Ryan McQuade, receiver Chad Beebe, tailback Brandon Mayes and fullback Joel Bouagnon, who ran for 135 yards and 2 first-half touchdowns, No. 9 Winnebago, a 56-20 winner over No. 1 Elmwood-Brimfield, has much to defend in next week's quarterfinal against the defending 3A champion.
Fans from AC (10-1) and No. 12 IC (7-4) recall Windle's game-winning catch in the waning seconds last season at Lewis Stadium. Saturday Don Beebe called that play from 46 yards out, his son holding the left flat as Windle broke in from the flank to snatch McQuade's pass and snap a 14-14 halftime tie.
"Cory's such a big target across that middle," Don Beebe said. "(McQuade) put it right on him, he caught it with his hands and scored, and those two plays really were kind of the dagger last year that won it and this year it really kind of hurt them."
Aurora Christian cornerback Legend Smith followed with an interception that led to Windle's second touchdown catch, aided by a slipping defender, for a 28-14 lead at 10:31 of the fourth quarter.
When with four minutes to play Aurora Christian's Jackson Carpenter poked the ball from scrambling Knights quarterback Demetrius Carr and Bouagnon recovered it, IC's hopes looked dashed. But cornerback Danny D'Angelo intercepted the ball right back. Four first downs later Carr threw to Adam Muellers for a 5-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 28-21 with 2:56 left.
IC got the ball back once more but Carr's bomb to Tim Hipskind with 6.4 seconds left was well defended.
"We've grown and they showed that they made a lot of progress from the last time they played," IC coach Bill Krefft said of a 47-20 Eagles win. "I can't say enough about the resilience of our kids. It was tied at halftime and they came out and fought for four quarters. I'm so proud of them and what they've become."
IC struck first after Sam Antes intercepted at his own 14 yard line, then opened the scoring on a 4-yard option dive as right tackle Dan Michel cracked down.
Sandwiched by Bouagnon's second-quarter touchdown runs of 19 and 5 yards, D'Angelo scored on a 31-yarder, and ran for 121 on the day.
Penalties negated two apparent touchdowns by each team. Aurora Christian made good on second tries, Immaculate Conception could not.
"The first play they called back, it's a tough step to get past," Carr said. "But we did it and we kept going on and on. Then the last one, it was heartbreaking for me on the sideline. But we kept fighting to the end, so I'm proud of my teammates."