Aurora Christian is headed back to its third state semifinal football game in the last five years after the top-seeded Eagles dominated Winnebago Saturday night in a 48-13 victory.
Western Michigan-bound Aurora Christian quarterback Anthony Maddie could not have had a more different game.
The Eagles' senior quarterback threw for 211 yards and a trio of scores to three different receivers in the opening half, only to completely put the game out of a reach in the second half with two scoring runs in excess of 63 yards in a three-play sequence.
With its one-sided triumph in Aurora, the Eagles (11-1) will meet Tolono Unity, the No. 1 seed from the Class 3A southern bracket, at home on Saturday for a berth in the state championship.
Third-seeded Winnebago, making its first quarterfinal appearance, had its season close at 9-3.
With Aurora Christian leading 21-6 at the break, the Eagles' defense handed the ball over to the offense with a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half.
Two plays later, Aurora Christian, which had a mere 5 yards rushing in the opening half, was the on the way to cruise control when Maddie broke through the line and cut against the grain for a 74-yard romp.
"It was a halftime adjustment," said Maddie, who ended with 397 combined yards through the air (235) and on the ground (162). "Coach (Don) Beebe is great at seeing things. The offensive line blocked incredibly."
Winnebago, which was denied on fourth down on four separate occasions, then had yet another long drive stall in Eagles' territory.
Maddie busted free once again down the left sideline to give Aurora Christian a commanding 35-6 lead in the third quarter.
Maddie, who connected with Chad Beebe, Ryan Suttle and Grayson Roberts on first-half scoring strikes, credited brilliant downfield blocking by Beebe and Noah Roberts for springing him.
The second running score came from 63 yards away.
"That was the difference in the game," Maddie said of his back-to-back runs.
The Eagles would amass an astonishing 247 yards on the ground on only 9 attempts in pulling away in the second half.
Brandon Mayes' burst from 45 yards away in the opening minute of the fourth was later augmented by Suttle rounding out the Eagles' second-half rushing outburst with a 22-yard run.
The second Suttle score initiated a running clock with six-plus minutes remaining.
"The second half we wanted to establish a ground game," coach Beebe said. "If nothing else to chew some clock. All week we heard that they were the physical team, and we were a finesse team. This is a game of emotion."
The other main storyline for Aurora Christian was its defense.
Winnebago managed only 4 yards of offense on its opening five possessions, not recording a first down until Kolton Kuczynski spearheaded a late first-half scoring drive.
"We're a run-dominant team from a run-dominant league (Big Northern)," Kuczynski said. "They're a great team."
"They're not used to passing," said Aurora Christian defensive lineman Josh Kok. "They tried doing some different stuff in their run game. Our backers were great."