St. Francis strikes early, often against Aurora Christian
Elijah Lee certainly seems to have bought into the St. Francis team slogan: 'All In'.
Lee, a transfer from Waubonsie Valley, has made his mark on the program already in this shortened season. He continued it with an interception and a touchdown in the third quarter of St. Francis' eventual 48-6 rout of Aurora Christian (1-2, 1-1) on Saturday.
"I feel like the coaches and all the players buy into that," Lee said. "Sometimes, we got to change practice and everyone is here on time. Everyone is buying in."
Lee's impact as an athlete, however, goes beyond the obvious physical traits exhibited on the field.
"He's a playmaker. He does everything we ask him to do," Spartans coach Bob McMillen said. "Works his butt off in practice and you know, he studies a lot of tape. That's what makes him different. He studies the game of football and he wants to be great."
Spartans senior quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse, who went 5-of-6 for 112 yards with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score, had plenty to say of Lee's athleticism.
"I don't know who to compare him to. He's just a freak," Rittenhouse said. "Goes up and gets it and is always open. Great tool to have."
Rittenhouse fumbled on the Spartans' opening possession, but Aurora Christian was unable to convert on a possible 4th-and-4 after a false start backed the Eagles up.
Rittenhouse more than made up for the early mistake by virtue of an electric 70-yard touchdown to Jackson Gerard on the Spartans' third offensive play for a 7-0 lead with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
On St. Francis' next possession, Rittenhouse scrambled for a 75-yard touchdown run up the left sideline and a 14-0 lead. The Eagles fumbled three plays later, which was recovered by Tyler Wood. Rittenhouse then found Dashiell Dorsey for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:40 left in the half.
Eagles quarterback Tyler Brueckner threw an ensuing apparent pick-six to Domenic Beres, but a block in the back penalty on the return negated it.
After the Spartans (3-0, 3-0) punted, Beres returned for a timely blocked punt, which was recovered in the end zone by him and the Spartans took a 28-0 lead into the half.
Rittenhouse found Tyler Bishop on the Spartans' opening second half possession on a 5-yard touchdown to go up 35-0. Brueckner then threw an ensuing interception to Lee, which Lee cashed in three plays later for a 9-yard rushing score and the 41-0 lead.
Brueckner eventually completed a 13-play drive that resulted in a 3-yard rush touchdown with 9:36 left in the game. St. Francis backup quarterback Alessio Milivojevic connected on a 20-yard touchdown to Ryan Calcagno for the final score of the afternoon and the 48-6 final.
Brueckner went 10-of-15 for 68 yards and one touchdown and one interception. Running back Cam Ajazi rushed for 67 yards and wideout Trey Beebe had four catches for 28 yards.
"I think it was fairly obvious what the game plan was: Try to control the ball. I thought we did that fairly well in the first half, but we can't turn the ball over," Eagles coach Dave Beebe said. "Against a team like St. Francis, you can't turn the ball over and you can't give up big plays. And, we did both.
"Credit them. They got some special players. Tommy is an incredible quarterback. It's a challenge [to game plan] no doubt. It's unfortunate for them there is no playoffs because they would've been fun to watch."