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Former Neuqua coach Bryan Wells embraces new role

Former NeuquValley head coach Bryan Wells is now serving as an assistant coach AurorChristian. He is also first-year principal

Former Neuqua Valley head coach Bryan Wells is now serving as an assistant coach at Aurora Christian. He is also the first-year principal at ACS. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Saturday’s games

Class 3A

Winnebago (9-2) at Aurora Christian (10-1), 6 p.m.

Class 8A

Waubonsie Valley (10-1) at Neuqua Valley (11-0), 6 p.m.

Updated: December 9, 2012 7:39PM

What a week this must be for Bryan Wells.

The first-year principal of Aurora Christian High School also serves as an assistant on coach Don Beebe’s football staff, directing special teams. The defending IHSA Class 3A state champion Eagles have advanced to this year’s quarterfinals and host Winnebago Saturday at 6 p.m.

At the same time, Neuqua Valley will host district rival Waubonsie Valley in the 8A quarterfinals. That’s the same Neuqua Valley program Wells helped start 15 years ago. He served as its varsity head coach for its first 14 years, including playoff appearances in eight of the last 10.

“The time we were allowed to be there my family was heavily invested in Neuqua and Neuqua Valley football. It was an awesome time,” said Wells, who coached Neuqua’s first graduating class as freshmen at Waubonsie Valley, then as sophomores in the first year of the new building before they moved up to play a varsity schedule.

It was preceded by three years as head coach at Manteno, several coaching jobs with small college teams and even a year teaching and coaching at a high school in Georgia.

“We always knew I wasn’t always going to be the head coach (at Neuqua Valley),” he said. “Was it the time I wanted to step away? No, it wasn’t.

“In regard to the success (Neuqua) has had on the field, I’m pleased for them. They deserve it. I know how hard those players have worked for it. (RB) Joey Rhattigan gets a lot of publicity, and deservedly so, but players like the Dennis Thurows, Sam Norgaards, J.P. Quinns and many others have pushed themselves into being successful.”

Wells is grateful for the opportunity to join Beebe and his staff, even if it’s a limited role compared to his time as a head coach.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “Certainly winning football helps in that regard, but it’s been a joy in more ways than what people see on the field. My son (Nathan) is part of the team, No. 1, and the heart for the kids from Don on down his staff, wanting to make a difference in their players’ lives, and not just on the field, is great. The winning is a byproduct and result of all that.”

His son, a junior, is the starting right guard on the Eagles’ offensive line.

“While he’s happy he’s here, in his heart the transfer took him a little longer (to embrace) than expected,” Bryan Wells said. “He’s grown up being a part of the Neuqua program since he was 1. Even players returning to the staff remember him being around as a kid. He had a dream to play there and play for me.

“To say it’s been seamless is only because he made it so, but it wasn’t without a lot of effort.”

Nathan has seen the Wildcats play this season, Bryan Wells has not.

Taking on the role of principal has been a new experience for him, as well.

“I have a passion not only for Friday nights and the game of football, but everything it brings with it,” Wells said. “The interaction with players and getting to know them in ways you wouldn’t get know them simply in a classroom setting is special to me.

“I had a friend ask, ‘Is it still fulfilling your football fix?’ Yes, it is. I haven’t stopped to think about what I may be missing (not being the head coach).”

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