Beebe steps down at Aurora Christian

  • Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe addresses his team after a playoff victory at Oregon.

    Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe addresses his team after a playoff victory at Oregon. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe talks to the Eagles.

    Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe talks to the Eagles. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 12/14/2013 1:21 AM

Don Beebe is not motivated by money, fame or, even in a wildly successful decade as head football coach at Aurora Christian, by victories or championships.

"What drives me is telling people about the kingdom of God," he said Friday.


A passion to more fully commit to that direction is what on Friday night led him to announce his resignation as the Eagles' head football coach.

"For me it's a happy day and a sad day at the same time," said Beebe, who emerged from Kaneland High School and little Chadron State College to become a six-time Super Bowl receiver for the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers.

"I didn't come to Aurora Christian to win football games and to coach kids for football," he said. "I came to Aurora Christian because God called me to disciple young men in the kingdom of God. And that never changed in ten years."

His platform, however, will change. Beebe is close to a development deal for a feature film produced by Desert Wind Faith Films, out of Los Angeles. The film will be based on the September 2012 book Beebe co-authored with Beacon-News senior columnist Denise Crosby, "Six Rings from Nowhere."

"Our firm is committed to working with Don Beebe and building a platform for him to spread the word of God," said Desert Winds' Steven Camp, the executive producer of the project.

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"We thoroughly believe that Don's story will challenge people globally, re-evaluating their looks on life, on their commitment to God," Camp said. "Don's story is such a phenomenal story, a story of triumph, and not always a perfect path."

Beebe first met with Camp this spring. On Wednesday they continued the process in Chicago with Desert Wind co-producers Joshua Mills and T.J. Amato to film initial interviews and discuss financing "but it's looking to come to fruition," Beebe said.

Several times before he'd been approached about a project based on "Six Rings," but this project aligns with his full ambition. Camp said Desert Winds is committed to build a platform for Beebe "for decades."

"My whole heart of hearts right now," Beebe said, "and the passion of my life, is I want to travel around the world and speak the word of God ... If this has anything to do with giving me a platform to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, I'm all in and I'm all ears."


That may be a relief to the world of Illinois Class 3A football, of which Aurora Christian has been at least in the conversation and often in the driver's seat since Beebe succeeded Andrew Price in the head coaching job in 2004.

Employing a highflying, unpredictable spread offense and consistently improving defense under defensive coordinator David Beebe, Don's brother, Aurora Christian made the playoffs in each of the partnership's 10 seasons.

Don Beebe's career record of 97-26 (winning an astronomical 79 percent of the time) included back-to-back 13-1 Class 3A state championship teams in 2011 and 2012. His 4A runner-up finish in 2008 included the quarterfinal ouster of seven-time state champion Driscoll.

Even this past season, fielding a team that at one point lacked 17 of 22 starting positions due to injury, Beebe kept Aurora Christian positive until it got healthy. Finishing 9-4, the Eagles advanced to the 3A semifinals, losing 28-26 to eventual state champion Stillman Valley.

Beebe said his championships were not the highlight of his prep coaching career. His favorite parts were the final night of preseason camp at Dickson Valley, in which players and coaches would profess their faith around a bonfire, sometimes deep into the night.

"Those days by far outweigh any state championship, by far," he said.

Another factor in his resignation as head coach is the ascension of his son, Chad, as a Northern Illinois University freshman receiver. Don Beebe had to catch a clip of Chad's first collegiate touchdown catch on an assistant's phone during the Eagles' 24-3 first-round playoff win at IC Catholic.

"I was crushed," Beebe said. "That hurt. As a father I should have been there, and I vowed to my son that would never happen again."

Beebe will remain "heavily involved" in the House of Speed training and conditioning center at the school, and initially plans to have some role with the football team. It will help that his successor will be David Beebe.

"There's not a better man for the job," Don said. "I could not hand this over to anybody better than my brother, Dave.

"My brother, Dave, is going to be a tremendous coach," Don said. "I've seen him grow in the past 10 years as much as anybody in the coaching field. This guy really, really knows his stuff. I hope I may have the opportunity to help him for a little bit. That's hopefully the direction we may take initially. But that remains to be seen. I know this, it isn't going to skip a beat."

Don Beebe equated his new path to how he felt as an 18-year-old with a crazy NFL dream. He made the dream a reality, as he did at Aurora Christian and hopes to on an even larger stage in the future.

"The past 10 years have been the time of my life, I've loved every minute of it," Beebe said. "Now I feel God's calling me in a different direction."

Wheaton Academy tabs Thornton: Brad Thornton will gladly accept this kind of pressure.

Operating this fall under the title of Wheaton Academy's interim football coach, on Friday Wheaton Academy athletic director Andrew Tink and head of school Gene Frost took away the interim tag.

"Now that the title is officially in place it's a weight off my mind in that the uncertainty is cleared up, but I feel the burden of the responsibility," Thornton said. "That's not a bad thing, and now my mind is running a mile a minute to make this thing successful."

One immediate aspect of that is obvious, he said: "To get wins."

Wheaton Academy went 4-5 last season but took three losses to Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division powers Montini, Aurora Christian and Marian Central. Against Gold Division foes Wheaton Academy went 3-0, and looks for greater possibilities when the Warriors move to the Metro Suburban Conference next fall.

Wins and losses aside, the decision to name Thornton the coach enhances the program's continuity. When Thornton arrived after six years as a defensive coach at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis he became the Warriors' third coach in three seasons. Thornton followed the one-year term of T.J. Ragan, who succeeded Ben Wilson after Wilson resigned the position for health and family reasons following brain surgery.

"Just having that stability is going to go a long way to helping that program grow," said Thornton, a Cary-Grove and Wheaton College graduate.

"There's a good, positive energy about the program at the school right now," he said.

As he strode the sideline this fall, Thornton certainly had the look of a man in charge. His work with his staff and in keeping with Wheaton Academy standards impressed Tink.

"Over the past six months coach Thornton has done a remarkable job of building a staff of high-caliber coaches, developing a culture of excellence and most importantly working tirelessly in his relationships with his players to develop Christian character," Tink said in a statement to the Daily Herald.

"The thing that we want to be distinctive about the Wheaton Academy program," he said, "is that when we have players who come back to us 10, 15, 20 years down the road they will not only be able to see an excellent program at the school, but we will see in them that they are leaders in their job, that they have strong marriages and families, and that they are doing good work to advance the kingdom of God."

-- Dave Oberhelman

Boys basketball

Bartlett 68, South Elgin 50: The game plan was simple for the Bartlett boys basketball team: slow down the fiery offense of Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division rival South Elgin.

The Storm entered Friday's game at Bartlett scoring 79 points per game but defense won out for the Hawks, who held South Elgin to a season-low in points in a 68-50 win.

The game was decided in the middle quarters when Bartlett (7-1, 1-1) outscored the Storm (3-3, 1-1) 40-21 to take a 53-35 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Hawks' defense helped force 12 turnovers during that time, and South Elgin finished with 25 for the game.

"Coach (Jim Wolfsmith) was telling us before the game their low was 61 points this season," said Bartlett's Ryan DiCanio, who had a game-high 19 points and a team-high 9 rebounds for the Hawks. "We knew they could score, but our goal was to hold them under 60 points and we did a nice job as a team defensively to accomplish that."

DiCanio, who hit 2 3-pointers in the game, had 12 points in the first half as Bartlett took a 31-23 lead into the break after falling behind 14-13 after one quarter.

Kevin Wantroba scored 10 of his 15 points during the second and third quarters including his third trey of the night to open the second half with the Hawks' first double-digit lead at 34-23. About three minutes into the second half, Bartlett gained some distance with a 9-0 run behind 5 points from DiCanio for a 49-30 lead.

South Elgin pulled no closer than 15 the rest of the game, and the Hawks led by as many as 20.

Bartlett showed its depth off the bench as Cal and Tyler Pauletti both contributed 9 points in the effort, and point guard Justin Busch added 8.

Justin Howard (9 points) and Darius Wells (8 points, 7 rebounds) each had 5 points in the first quarter when the Storm grabbed the early lead, but Matthew Smith would be their only player to finish in double-digits for scoring with a team-high 12 points. Jake Amrhein had a game-high 10 rebounds, and Julian Lynch added 7.

"The whole thing was they came in with a great game plan to take away our transition game," said Storm coach Matt Peterson.

-- Seth Hancock

Girls basketball

ACC 45, Guerin 30: Aurora Central Catholic's withering full court man-to-man defense stymied the Guerin Prep offense in a 45-30 Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division Friday night in Aurora.

On a night where the Chargers shot very poorly from the field the defense continued to create scoring opportunities. Gabi Alfaro led the way with 12 points followed by 10 from Natalie Droeske.

ACC (6-3, 1-1) will be the No. 6 seed at the Oswego East Holiday Tournament which begins on Dec. 23.

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