Aurora Christian will be able to gauge its improvement from the first snap.
The Eagles open against Stillman Valley, which lost a 22-20 decision to Illini West in the 2010 Class 3A state championship game. Aurora Christian lost 46-16 to Stillman Valley in the quarterfinals.
The unsettling rumors this summer of Aurora Christian possibly closing due to a loan default failed to impact the football squad. In 2010 there were 64 players in the program, coach Don Beebe said; this year there are 63. Eight varsity starters return on offense and six on defense.
"It did not bear on the football program at all," Beebe said.
Which means these Eagles, shifting to the Suburban Christian Conference's Gold Division from the stronger Blue, could be a bear on the field.
"First of all," Beebe said, "we always have high expectations. This year I think they are even higher than normal just because we've got a lot coming back from the quarterfinal team."
It starts with their Western Michigan-bound quarterback. Senior Anthony Maddie, in his second year in Beebe's spread offense after transferring out of Joliet Catholic's option system, figures not only to complete more than last season's 48 percent of his passes but may also surpass his team-leading 607 rushing yards. The solidly built right-hander ran for 4 touchdowns and threw for 26 and 2,468 yards.
"Anthony's had a great offseason of bettering himself in a few areas after watching film and breaking down the areas he needed work on the timing of his throws and making good decisions," Beebe said.
Aurora Christian graduated only Andrew Cassara among Maddie's primary targets. Chad Beebe, the coach's son, led last year's squad with 53 receptions for 840 yards and 9 touchdowns, several of them on a broken foot.
An indication of the Eagles' offensive potential came this summer at the invite-only Select 7-on-7 competition in Alabama. Aurora Christian went 5-5 and beat the defending champion, Shiloh Christian. Defending Class 8A champion Maine South went 3-6 there in 2010, Don Beebe said.
Another source of optimism is an offensive line the coach called the strongest he's had. Returning left guard R.J. Morris tips the scales at 291 pounds, returning right tackle Josh Kok at 245 pounds. Several players have bench-pressed 300 pounds including Maddie and Beebe said he didn't recall that in the past.
"We're usually 190, 200 (pound) kids, so we're going to be able to power-run the football if we want to," Beebe said.
They also need to stop opponents from doing that. Having graduated last year's top two tacklers, Sam Miller and Todd Clapp, returning tackles leaders Mitch Holtz and Kenny McCracken head a junior-based defense.
"I think we know what we're going to be offensively," Beebe said. "But they've got to jell together, too."
Aurora Christian breakdown
Coach: Don Beebe (eighth year, 62-20).
2009 record: 7-4, 1-4, fifth place in SCC Blue.
Postseason: Nine straight playoff appearances.
Last five years (starting in 2006): 6-4, 12-1, 13-1, 6-4, 7-4
2011 Enrollment: 563
Date Opponent Time
8/26 Stillman Valley 7:00
9/2 Chicago Acad. 7:00
9/9 at Chicago Chr. 7:30*
9/16 Guerin 7:00*
9/23 at Montini 7:30
9/30 Walther Lutheran 7:00*
10/7 at I. Conception 7:30*
10/14 St. Edward 7:00
10/21 Aurora Central 7:00*
* conference games
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
QB Anthony Maddie 6-2/201 Sr.*
RB Mitch Holtz 6-1/215 Sr.*
WR Chad Beebe 5-8/151 Jr.*
WR Grayson Roberts 6-1/176 Sr.*
WR Cory Windle 6-3/186 Jr.*
WR Brandon Mayes 5-7/165 Jr.*
LT Julian Sosa 5-11/201 Sr.
LG R.J. Morris 6-3/291 Sr.*
C Roman Czerwinski 5-10/212 Sr.
RG Nick Larson 5-10/221 Jr.
RT Josh Kok 6-4/242 Jr.*
PK Julian Sosa 5-11/201 Sr.*
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
DE Josh Kok 6-2/220 Sr.*
NT Quienten Boston 5-9/165 Sr.*
DT Nick Larson 6-0/185 Jr.
DE Ryan McQuade 6-4/191 Jr.
OLB Ryan Suttle 5-11/164 Jr.
OLB Mitch Holtz 6-1/215 Sr.*
ILB Kenny McCracken 5-11/188 Sr.*
ILB Roman Czerwinski 5-10/212 Sr.*
S Brandon Mayes 5-7/165 Jr.*
CB Cody Slamans 5-9/168 Sr.
CB Anthony Cassara 5-6/155 Jr.
P Anthony Maddie 6-2/201 Sr.
* denotes returning starter