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Julian Rios stood at the head of the receiving line of Aurora Central Catholic seniors on Gately Stadium's north goal line, hugging first his coaches, then his teammates, then the trainers and equipment managers.
When they were done, Rios reflected on the end — not of his high school football career, which came in a 36-6 loss to King in a Class 4A first-round playoff game — but of the beginning of Central's turnaround as a football program.
"When I was in eighth grade, the football team went 1-8," he said. "Our freshman year was coach (Brian) Casey's first year. He told us we were going to be the class to turn the program around. Making the playoffs two years in a row, I think we have.
"Hopefully, the next classes can continue that, and our program can be like a Montini or a Joliet Catholic."
Saturday afternoon, the 10th-seeded Chargers (6-4) couldn't keep up with No. 7 King (8-2), mostly because they couldn't hold onto the ball.
Four times in the first half, Central pushed into King territory. Each time the Chargers came away empty.
First, it was a snap over the head of quarterback Matt Schaefer that moved the Chargers from King's 44 to their own 38 and ultimately forced a punt. The Jaguars took that opportunity and marched 87 yards to the game's first score, an eight-yard run by quarterback Nathaniel Powell.
Next, Central fumbled away the ball at the King 17, and followed that by turning the ball over on downs at the King 26. The Jaguars scored in three snaps, Powell hitting Kyle Harris for a 70-yard touchdown pass, and a second two-point conversion making it 16-0.
An interception at the King two-yard line ended Central's last possession of the half.
"You can't do that against good teams," Casey said. "In the playoffs, they're all good teams."
The Jaguars added three more scores in the third quarter, on a 13-yard run by Powell (13 carries, 63 yards), a 10-yard catch by Myron Owens and a 39-yard run by Harris (7 carries, 101 yards; 3 receptions, 142 yards).
Rios, who finished with 103 yards on 17 carries, had the Chargers' lone score, going in from two yards out with 8:38 to play.
With the win, King advanced to a second-round game at Harvard, 40-22 winners Friday over St. Edward. It marked the first IHSA playoff win in nine tries for 44th-year King coach Lonnie Williams.
"It's wonderful because I knew we beat a good team and a great program," Williams said. "We knew they were good and for us to be a public school and come out and win like this is a credit to all Chicago Public Schools."