Aurora Christian football coach Dave Beebe isn't looking for sympathy when discussing the team's membership in the Chicago Catholic League White Division and the schedule it currently plays.
"It's a tough schedule and we accept it," said Beebe, whose team will join the Metro Suburban Conference next season. "I have never minded playing the Brother Rice's of the world, but it's more of a challenge when it's every week. We're playing Class 6 and 7A schools. It's is tough."
Beebe is hopeful his team will be more well-equipped on the health and experience side this season to tackle the A-list schedule.
"We have to stay healthy," he said. "Last year we had injuries and for us if one person got hurt it was like two kids getting hurt and in the Chicago Catholic League that's a tough ask. This year, our senior class is as big as the two previous senior classes combined. We have a lot more depth. It's hard to win in the Chicago Catholic League with a small amount of seniors."
The Eagles, who went 2-7 last year and 0-3 in CCL White play, are certainly smiling in the experience department on the offensive side of the ball with seven returning starters headlined by returning unanimous conference MVP Drew Clippert (6-2, 200) at quarterback.
Clippert was injured for the first 3 ½ weeks last year -- getting hurt on the second play of the season -- and still wound up earning all-state honors.
"We're excited about having Drew back," Beebe said. "He's a three-year starter and a three-year captain. He's our guy. He really runs the show."
Other returners on offense include seniors Danny Russell (5-9, 185, RB), Devan Cross (6-0, 175, WR), Allen Bartoszek (6-0, 270, G), Cristian Cervantes (6-1, 280, G), Jame Miceli (6-4, 255, T) and Caleb Berdick (5-10, 290).
"Devan Cross also is coming back and he's a three-year starter as well, and Danny Russell is back, too," the coach noted. "We also have a lot of very good role players who are ready to make plays when needed. We feel pretty good about the kids we have on offense."
Newcomers to the team who will help include the likes of senior Clark Turek (6-0, 150, WR) and juniors Caleb Beebe (5-11, 150, WR), Josh Erffmeyer (5-11, 160, WR), Kyrin Perry (5-9, 185, RB-Slot) and Jovanny Corral (5-10, 235, OL).
On defense, Aurora Christian returns 5 starters in the form of Cervantes (interior line), Miceli (DE), Julian Jaimes (5-11, 200, LB), Turek (CB) and Phil Taitague (5-11, 165, CB).
Other figuring into the mix on defense include the likes of Beebe at free safety and the linebacker quintet of Angel Jaimes (5-10, 220, Soph.), Luke Hanson (5-10, 185, Sr.), Tom Flowers (6-2, 210, Jr.), Erffmeyer and Perry.
Also helping on both sides of the ball will be junior Trey Madsen (5-9, 155).
"Our box on defense is pretty strong. Our upfront linemen have been playing for a while," said Beebe. "I also like our coverage. We have a little more youth on defense. I'm interested to see what we can do. We're pretty excited about our defense as well."
Beebe has been stressing a team-oriented approach throughout the off-season and into the early part of fall practices. "We have to play as a team," he said. "Last year we could have done that a little better. We have to handle adversity better. This group does a nice job playing together. There are not a lot of egos. They are humble and they like to see each other succeed. We're in the Chicago Catholic League and we are the smallest school in the league. You have to play together because bad things are going to come and you have to handle that the right way."
Aurora Christian opens the season against town neighbor Aurora Central Catholic before embarking on a run of playing five games in six weeks against schools from the city of Chicago.