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Perhaps no one felt more special after Friday's Class 3A state championship than Bryan Wells.
Aurora Christian's special teams coach -- and the school principal -- had been let go by Neuqua Valley in March, the only head coach the program had known until this season.
Friday, he was a state champion.
"I don't know that I can really put it in words, to be honest with you," he said.
Over 14 seasons at Neuqua Valley, from 1998-2011, Wells went 71-66 with three Upstate Eight Conference titles and eight playoff appearances. Until this season under Wells' former offensive coordinator, Bill Ellinghaus, the Wildcats had never gone past the second round of he playoffs.
The former dean of students then joined Aurora Christian. His son Nathan, a junior, enrolled at Aurora Christian as well. He was the Eagles' starting right offensive guard the entire season.
"We've talked all week long about just what a great experience this is," Bryan Wells said. "I have wished that so many players that I've coached in the past and so many staff members that I have had could experience this, and I'd love to experience it with them. but to have the opportunity to experience it with my son is priceless. I can't put a price on that. Just to watch him, how he's prepared all year long, he's gotten better, it's been tremendous."
The coach, who also helped the other Eagles coaches break down film and work with the offense in "quality control," said he didn't like the way his tenure at Neuqua ended, but he has embraced being at Aurora Christian.
"It is different, but I've got to tell you, there's really no place I would rather be right now and not just because of this," Wells said. "It's just been such a blessing to be part of this community, be part of this school, be part of this coaching staff and coaching some terrific kids."
A-Mayes-ing game: Don Beebe said senior running back-linebacker Brandon Mayes had his best game in the state final.
The Northern Illinois-bound Mayes ran for 86 yards with a 16-yard touchdown, tied Joel Bouagnon with a team-high 11 tackles, returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up the Eagles' first touchdown, and returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown, the first time he'd done that.
"All I actually remember is I didn't score," he said of his long kickoff return. "I was pretty mad about it but as a senior on this team and as a captain I'm like, I've got to get my team going. My front five guys, they did a great job blocking for me and opening some holes for me. I just took it upfield but obviously I didn't score -- but I set us up in good field position."
A minute or so later Mayes was joking again about the inability to score on the kickoff return.
"In the first playoff game I got caught (also), so obviously I need to go to the House of Speed or something. I need to get this figured out."