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updated: 9/28/2013 12:45 AM

Aurora Christian strikes St. Francis early

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By Eric Bridges
Daily Herald Correspondent

Homecoming, a dedication ceremony for the newly built Kuhn Memorial Stadium, and your conference rivals on your home turf -- the story seemed like it came from a well-written screen play.

Unfortunately for St. Francis, the Aurora Christian Eagles weren't as sentimental about the new field, defeating their Suburban Christian Blue conference rival 24-14.

The game appeared early on as if it might get out of hand, with the Eagles scoring on big plays each of their first two drives for an early 14-0 lead. Coach Don Beebe admitted that getting up early to take the momentum away from the Spartans was a key component to his game plan.

"We absolutely focused on it (taking the crowd out of the game early)," Beebe said. "We knew we were coming into a hornet's nest after the way we beat them at home last year. We knew they were going to come out with everything they had -- they were going to play physical and they were going to play fast. I told them, 'Guys, this game isn't going to be like a normal game. We have to start fast and take the momentum out of them right away, and boy did they. That was some great football on both sides of the ball, and on special teams.'"

The Eagles stunned the home team on the ground and then through the air, taking a 7-0 lead on junior Legend Smith's 32-yard run on their first possession, and then scoring again on a halfback option from Brandon Walgren to Noal Roberts from 63 yards out on their second possession.

"We knew what we had to do coming in here, so we started off well," Smith said. "I didn't expect it (32-yard run) to be there, but my line opened a nice hole for me and I was able to push it through."

"Coming in here as the underdog, things could easily go wrong, but that's not what this team is about," Roberts said. "We played hard nosed and earned the win."

St. Francis (3-2, 1-2) bounced back early in the second quarter after forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs near midfield. A 12-play, 55-yard drive ended on James Butler's 1-yard run to close the gap to 14-7 with 4:12 left to play in the first half.

But the Eagles didn't waste any time returning the lead back to 14, scoring 18 seconds later on an 80-yard bomb from Austin Bray to Roberts.

"I had to fill in on that play, but I knew what to do because I've played that position before," Roberts said. "God gave me the ability, and it just worked out for us."

After Butler returned the second half kickoff 35 yards to give the Spartans great field possession, they fumbled on their first play and Aurora Christian (5-0, 1-0) turned the Spartan miscue into a 32-yard field goal by Trevor Hills.

The Spartans scored the final points of the game with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter on a 7-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Clint Bobowski sneaking in from the 1-yard line.

Senior Spartans running back Butler, who was limited to 37 yards on 14 carries, credited the Eagles swarming defense in holding him to his lowest rushing output of the year, and feels there are things that can be learned after playing such a high-caliber opponent like Aurora Christian.

"They (Eagles) had a really good scheme that confused our offensive line a bit," Butler said. "They gang tackled very well and have a very good defense. We just need to execute better and we just have to get back to practice and fix our mistakes. We can learn a lot from this game."

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