Aurora Central Catholic appeared primed to turn the tide against nemesis IC Catholic Prep. Instead it turned over the football.
Beating the Chargers for a 15th straight time, 21-14, IC dodged a bullet on ACC's early fumble at the Knights' 1-yard line and capitalized on an interception for touchdown and another to set up the go-ahead score at Lewis Stadium in Elmhurst.
"I think our kids just have that expectation that excellence is demanded," Knights coach Bill Krefft said in explanation for IC's success against its top Suburban Christian Gold competition.
ACC (2-1, 0-1) displayed early excellence on the ground, where Julian Rios earned 86 of the Chargers' 268 rushing yards. Outweighing IC on the line by a good 70 pounds a man on their first possession the Chargers roared like lion through zebra, 74 yards for third-and-goal at the IC 1-yard line. A fumbled exchange, recovered by IC's Sean Sutton, left them flat.
ACC drew first blood on Kyle Reily's 33-yard touchdown pass to Rios, but ACC coach Brian Casey felt the fumble's repercussions.
"Give credit to IC, the kids made plays," Casey said. "But ultimately you've got to score when you get inside of the 2-yard line and we didn't do that, and that was a huge boost for them."
IC (2-1, 1-0) lacked offense until quarterback Jack Copher rolled out to complete 3 passes, one on fourth-and-6 to Rashaun Epting, to loosen up the Chargers' 3-5 defense. Then freshman Jordan Rowell scored on a 23-yard run and Copher's kick knotted the score 7-7, where it stood at halftime.
The teams swapped interceptions to start the third quarter, IC winning that deal on defensive end Michael Perrone's first interception, dating to the fifth-grade ball, with a 35-yard return for touchdown.
"I just put my hands up, try to bat it down," he said. "They came down and it was still in my hands so I just took off running."
Randy Leslie's 76-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter, off a tip by Riley Ricobene, set IC up at the Chargers 4-yard line. Two plays later Copher faked a handoff, rolled left and hit Max Eichhorn in the short flat. Copher's kick gave IC a 21-7 lead with 10:49 to play.
With fullback Matt Schaefer at quarterback, ACC used 14 straight running plays to get within 21-14 with 4:15 left on Hunter Fiorito's 1-yard run.
Copher, who had his best day yet with 154 yards passing, hit Clark Brinkman on a 58-yard fly to set IC up again. Now they fumbled going in, Eddie Gonzalez recovering for one last ACC chance. The Chargers reached their own 40 before a fourth-down pass attempt landed incomplete with 24 seconds left.
"Over the summer our goal was to outwork IC every day and honestly I think we did," said Chargers linebacker Cody Ekstrom. "We just drew the short straw today with unlucky plays. This is going to help us get better for the future."
Aurora Christian 59, Walther Christian 7:
Aurora Christian (3-0, 1-0) raised its cumulative margin of victory to 178-7 with the Suburban Christian Conference crossover victory Saturday in Melrose Park.
Eagles quarterback Austin Bray threw for an unofficial 245 yards with 4 touchdown passes. Brandon Walgren caught 2 of those passes and racked up 156 yards receiving. Tailback Legend Smith ran for 140 yards with 2 touchdowns. Defensively, outside linebacker Trevor Hills made an interception.
Walther Christian scored in the second quarter on David Walton's touchdown pass to Kurtis Duff, the first points Aurora Christian has allowed this season.