One thing's certain Oregon won't underestimate Aurora Christian.
Oregon senior running back Braden Barton, whose 804 yards rushing lead the Hawks as they enter Friday's 7 p.m. Class 3A second-round game against the Eagles, was quoted on the SaukValley.com website that Oregon "underestimated them huge last year."
Aurora Christian won the first-round contest 38-0.
"The number one thing that we didn't do last year that we need to do this year if we want to be in the game is we've got to have some control on offense," said Oregon coach John Bothe, whose fifth-seeded Hawks beat No. 4 Watseka 28-6 to move to 7-3 on the season.
That is exactly what Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe looks to avoid. No. 1 seed Aurora Christian (9-1), traveling to play on what may be a sloppy track compared to the Eagles' fast, pristine turf, will face a Wing-T outfit that dares teams to stop the run right behind key linemen David Luepkes, Cameron Corcoran and Cody Merrill, each at least a two-year starter.
"We've got to be able to stop the run and force them into a passing situation, which they're not comfortable with," Beebe said. "If they can get the run game going and they can get third-and-three or shorter, you're in for a long day."
Last week 4 turnovers 2 lost fumbles, 2 interceptions made for a long day for Aurora Christian's defense. The Eagles, beating No. 8 Kewanee 35-8, rose to the challenge with a pair of goal-line stands headed by linebackers Mitch Holtz and Brandon Mayes.
"Mitch Holtz, I think that was our finest defensive performance in eight years," Beebe said. "And Brandon Mayes, too."
Holtz who Beebe believes is inspired for this playoff run by a play his freshman year in the 2008 Class 4A title game, tackled shy of the end zone in the Eagles' loss to Bloomington Central Catholic finished with 13 tackles and an interception he returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
Mayes led Aurora Christian with 15 stops and made a key pickoff at his own 4-yard line as Kewanee looked to score before halftime.
"Him and Mitch, they're almost like Frick and Frack, Tom and Jerry, Batman and Robin. They're just such a duo," Beebe said.
Speaking of duos, Bothe eschews the cliché that if you've got two quarterbacks you really have none.
As opposed to Aurora Christian's spectacular sole signalcaller Anthony Maddie, who has passed for 2,861 yards and 40 touchdowns this season, the Hawks go with senior Josh Egyed and sophomore Tyler Blume both seeing time behind center.
"I wouldn't recommend it, but it does work for us," said Bothe, who likes to spell Egyed, also a starting defensive back who returns kickoffs and punts.
Whoever's back there, the Hawks have just 315 yards passing with 2 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. The heavy lifting is done on the ground by Barton, Jordan Wescott (552 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Brandon Sklavanitis (526 yards, 6 TDs).
Defensively, senior defensive end Tim Smith is a load. He leads Oregon's 5-2 defense with 72 tackles including 17 for loss. That will challenge an Aurora Christian line that lacks senior standout R.J. Morris, who had reconstructive surgery Wednesday after tearing the meniscus and ACL in his left knee against Kewanee.
Beebe was impressed to beat Kewanee decisively given those 4 turnovers. Thus, that's the key for this week.
"It's absolutely the number one stat in football," they coach said. "You just can't turn the ball over."