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Aurora Central Catholic is moving out of the Suburban Christian Conference after this year.
The Chargers are taking some serious bragging rights with them.
In the last meeting in the foreseeable future between longtime rivals Marmion and Aurora Central Catholic Friday night, the Chargers delighted their fans with a victory nobody will soon forget.
Throwing just one pass, Aurora Central pounded its way to a 13-12 come-from-behind win, stunning a Marmion team that had blown out the Chargers 41-7 last year and owns wins this year over Marian, Aurora Christian and St. Francis.
"We grew up as a program today," Chargers coach Brian Casey said, smiling from ear to ear. "That's the biggest we've had in, let's call it 15 years, but maybe even more. Last time we are going to play them. It's a great day to be a Charger. We'll enjoy this one."
Safety Roman Padilla was the final hero in a game full of them, intercepting Brock Krueger at the Chargers' 34 with 1:36 remaining. The Chargers then ran the ball three more times until the clock hit 0:00, the final of their 42 rushing attempts to the single pass play that came on a 2-point conversion attempt.
"I had good jams at the line of scrimmage by my cornerbacks and linebackers," Padilla said. "I just read the quarterback's eyes and just came up with the ball.
"This is one of the best wins our school has had in a long time."
Aurora Central Catholic (6-2, 4-2 in the Suburban Christian Gold) locked up its second straight playoff berth under Casey. Marmion (6-2, 4-2) led 10-0 at halftime, but the Cadets' only points in the second half came on a safety.
"We said on Monday that if this game was the most boring game ever, we'll win," Casey said. "And we got ourselves in spots where the running backs knew, four yards, four yards, four yards. I don't know what we averaged but you make plays when you need to. And I think we got into a pretty good rhythm."
It certainly wasn't the most boring game, delivering a tense fourth quarter that had an overflow crowd at ACC roaring play after play. It also might have been one of the most unusual games, starting with a first half that saw the Chargers only get the ball for two possessions.
That's because Marmion rattled off time-consuming 17- and 19-play drives, keeping both going with clutch plays on third and fourth downs. The Cadets converted 6 of their 10 third downs in the first half, and on the four occasions they didn't, they went 3-for-3 on fourth downs.
The first of those came in the middle of a 17-play, 90-yard march on a fake punt. Up-man Josh Meyers threw 6 yards to Sean Campbell for a first down. Krueger capped the drive on the first play of the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
The Cadets got the ball back, then used a 19-play drive that included two more fourth-down conversions — including a pass that deflected off Enzo Olabi's hands right to teammate Dan Bicknell for 12 yards and a first down. The drive ended with Riley DeMoss booting a 27-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Senior Julian Rios quickly got the Chargers back in the game in the third quarter with a 38-yard touchdown run on a sweep right, cutting the Cadets' lead to 10-7 with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
After a center snap sailed over quarterback Matt Schaefer's head and out of the end zone for a safety that put the Cadets up 12-7, the Chargers' defense held to stay within one score.
"We had our chances with a short field after the safety and didn't take advantage," Cadets coach Dan Thorpe said.
The Chargers responded with another long march, this one 75 yards in 15 plays with Rios picking up a key first down on a 4th-and-short carry. Padilla capped the drive with his 9-yard touchdown run, leaving the Chargers up 13-12 with 7:08 left after the 2-point conversion pass failed.
Linemen Alec Licar, Tony Hizo, Eddie Gonzalez, Mikey Malawski, Michael Shanahan were instrumental in moving the chains even with the Chargers as one-dimensional as an offense can be.
"I had great blocks from my linemen and my fullback Cody Ekstrom and my wide receiver out there," Padilla said. "They just helped me push into the end zone. I just followed them."
The Cadets fed Jordan Glasgow (16 carries, 93 yards) seven times on their next possession, and the junior ripped off runs of 24, 9 and 10 yards to set Marmion up with a first-and-goal at the 8 well within DeMoss' field goal range. But the Chargers pushed them back from there, starting with a 4-yard tackle-for-loss by Padilla. On third down Karlo Valenzuela sacked Krueger and forced a fumble the Chargers recovered with 2:47 remaining, denying DeMoss a potential game-winning field goal.
"We knew we could get some pressure on them," Casey said. "We dialed it up at the right time. Last year that team ran through us like crazy."
Marmion got the ball back one more time, a possession that Padilla quickly ended with his interception.
"My hat is off to ACC," Thorpe said. "They didn't win on a trick play. They won on old-school, smash-mouth football and my hat is off to them. They were big and moved the ball on us and stuffed us."
Marmion, held to 79 yards in the second half, can bounce back next Saturday at Walther Christian before heading to the playoffs — albeit not with the 8-1 record it might have expected before Friday.
"We find out who we are now," Thorpe said. "Character check now. Till we watch the film it wasn't so much us, it was them. They beat us offensively, defensively and out-coached us."
The Chargers finished with 188 yards of offense, 114 of them from Rios on his 14 carries.
"You look at the job that some of those kids did, Julian Rios, that's a man," Casey said. "And their (Marmion's) backs are great too. The fact our defense limited them to 10 points, that's great."
After the teams shook hands, the Chargers sprinted to the home stands to sing their school song with a crowd as fired-up as the players. A program that until last year had not been to the playoffs since 1997-98 showed just how far it has come Friday.
"We beat a great team," Casey said. "We are competing so much better. When you look at our games from last year, we competed so much better against IC, we competed against St. Ed, and we beat these guys. That was the biggest step we had to make for our program was beating a good team. Our kids are on cloud nine right now. Our kids played their tails off."
Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDH