A "welcome home, champions" rally Saturday for the Aurora Christian School football team reminded everybody in the gymnasium what the Eagles think life is all about.
The cheerleaders roused the crowd with a cheer: "Humble in victory, our only boast is this. ... At ACS, we always play for Him!"
The team returned Saturday afternoon from Champaign, where it won its second consecutive Class 3A state title. It beat Tolono-Unity 42-12.
The first standing ovation at the rally was not for the team, nor head coach Don Beebe, but for Jesus Christ.
For Beebe and his brothers -- Dan, the school's athletic director, and Dave, the team's defensive coordinator -- more important than teaching boys to win is helping them to mature in their Christian faith and realize that football is just a platform for them to use to tell people about the Gospel.
"The big game ain't winning two trophies," said Beebe, who played in six Super Bowls, winning two of them.
"We try to replicate the army of God," said Dave Beebe, explaining the team's approach to defense. "When I read Scriptures ... I do not see a passive army.
"That's why we blitz so much, that's why we come off the end, that's why we confuse," Dave Beebe said of the defensive line.
The school's new high-school principal, Bryan Wells, also served as a football coach. He spoke of how moved he was by a team father-son campout, which included a session where they talked about how football exposed them to how they loved each other, but also to their own weaknesses and character flaws.
Dave Beebe noted that even though the Eagles were down 12-0 at the half Friday, he was strangely happy. He was confident the boys had learned how to successfully deal with adversity, he said.
Don Beebe also pointed out how the team lived out its faith earlier this year when it played nemesis Montini Catholic, the only team to beat Aurora Christian the last two seasons.
Montini was raising money to help a player who was suffering complications after a bone-marrow transplant; the Aurora Christian team wore Montini-orange decals with the player's number on their helmets, and prayed with the Montini team before the game. The cheerleaders and the Aurora Christian Booster Club donated to the fundraiser, also.
Of course, pride in actual football achievements did come out at the rally.
"Winning one (championship) is memorable. Winning two (consecutively) is historic. ... Next year, they will be the first (team) at three in a row," Don Beebe said, with a big smile. He then led the crowd in the cheer he started when he won his first Super Bowl:
"Re-peat. Re-peat, RE-PEAT. RE-PEAT!"