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Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 10/28/2016 11:50 PM

Aurora CC downs Wheaton Academy

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Aurora Central Catholic's football team finished with 80 yards of total offense and four first downs.

The Chargers managed just 3 yards of offense and one first down throughout the entire second half, that coming on a defensive penalty.

However, the most important numbers were glowing on the scoreboard after the final whistle, as the Chargers (9-1) escaped with a 20-13 victory over Wheaton Academy (6-4) during Friday night's Class 4A opening round playoff game in Aurora.

"It was a great win for our school," said Chargers coach John Belskis. "We haven't won a playoff game since 1996 (42-13 over Peru-St. Bede) from what I understand and we're one play away from being 10-0 right now.

"Going from 3-6 last year -- we're trying to change the culture a little bit around here and the kids buying in and now they're seeing the fruits of those labors."

ACC took the opening kickoff and marched 57 yards in 5 plays, capped by Ryan Cerza's 34-yard touchdown run on a 3rd-and-11 play to grab a 6-0 lead.

Late in the first quarter, senior defensive back Patrick Flanagan returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown and teammate Jeff Albert added a 2-point conversion run as the Chargers extended their lead to 14-0.

"I saw the ball and it just kind of went into my hands," said Flanagan. "I just ran and it worked out."

With time running down in the third quarter, ACC turned to its defense one more time as senior cornerback Griffin Zajac jumped a sideline pattern and returned his interception 44 yards for a TD and a 20-0 lead.

"They kept running that play over and over so I knew with our line they would get some pressure and the quarterback would have to throw it," said Zajac. "We knew what plays they were going to run from each formation."

Wheaton Academy, which defeated ACC 33-14 in last year's regular season finale, staged a fourth-quarter comeback that included a 7-yard touchdown run by Kent Harmon (11 carries, 57 yards) with 5:31 left and a 5-yard TD pass from quarterback Ben Thorson (18 of 38, 226 yards) to Harrison Taylor (6 receptions, 86 yards) with 1:28 remaining.

The Chargers sealed the decision a few moments later when sophomore Jeff Albert recovered the Warriors' onside kick attempt.

"We've got to play with a little more resolve," said Belskis. "These kids -- they haven't been in this situation. We've tried to impress upon them that this is a different level now.

"We'll get to practice for at least another week."

In the end, Wheaton Academy was unable to overcome numerous dropped passes, 13 penalties, and 3 costly turnovers.

"We killed ourselves tonight," admitted Warriors coach Brad Thornton. "But I'm proud of our team and I'm proud of the way that they fought.

"We got to the playoffs last year and we were happy to be there. This year, we wanted more. That showed tonight. No one is satisfied with this result. It's going to be a key motivator for us in the off-season."

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