Aurora Christian's Cory Windle can't quite come up with a catch on a tipped pass against Tolono Unity during Friday's Class 3A state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Aurora Christian quarterback Ryan McQuade hugs a teammate following their win over Tolono Unity Friday in Champaign.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Rick Westfirstname.lastname@example.org Aurora Christian's Noah Roberts celebrates a teammates fourth quarter touchdown against Tolono Unity during Friday's Class 3A state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Rick Westemail@example.com Aurora Christian's Noah Roberts and coach Don Beebe share a moment after the trophy presentation following their win over Tolono Unity during Friday's Class 3A state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Perhaps no one felt more special after Fridays Class 3A state championship than Bryan Wells.
Aurora Christians special teams coach and the school principal had been let go by Neuqua Valley in March, the only head coach the program had known until this season.
Friday, he was a state champion.
I dont know that I can really put it in words, to be honest with you, he said.
Over 14 seasons at Neuqua Valley, from 1998-2011, Wells went 71-66 with three Upstate Eight Conference titles and eight playoff appearances. Until this season under Wells former offensive coordinator, Bill Ellinghaus, the Wildcats had never gone past the second round of he playoffs.
The former dean of students then joined Aurora Christian. His son Nathan, a junior, enrolled at Aurora Christian as well. He was the Eagles starting right offensive guard the entire season.
Weve talked all week long about just what a great experience this is, Bryan Wells said. I have wished that so many players that Ive coached in the past and so many staff members that I have had could experience this, and Id love to experience it with them. but to have the opportunity to experience it with my son is priceless. I cant put a price on that. Just to watch him, how hes prepared all year long, hes gotten better, its been tremendous.
The coach, who also helped the other Eagles coaches break down film and work with the offense in quality control, said he didnt like the way his tenure at Neuqua ended, but he has embraced being at Aurora Christian.
It is different, but Ive got to tell you, theres really no place I would rather be right now and not just because of this, Wells said. Its just been such a blessing to be part of this community, be part of this school, be part of this coaching staff and coaching some terrific kids.
A-Mayes-ing game: Don Beebe said senior running back-linebacker Brandon Mayes had his best game in the state final.
The Northern Illinois-bound Mayes ran for 86 yards with a 16-yard touchdown, tied Joel Bouagnon with a team-high 11 tackles, returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up the Eagles first touchdown, and returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown, the first time hed done that.
All I actually remember is I didnt score, he said of his long kickoff return. I was pretty mad about it but as a senior on this team and as a captain Im like, Ive got to get my team going. My front five guys, they did a great job blocking for me and opening some holes for me. I just took it upfield but obviously I didnt score but I set us up in good field position.
A minute or so later Mayes was joking again about the inability to score on the kickoff return.
In the first playoff game I got caught (also), so obviously I need to go to the House of Speed or something. I need to get this figured out.