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Ryan McQuade delivers for Aurora Christian

AurorChristian quarterback Ryan McQuade barks out signals Saturday Sterling. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

Aurora Christian quarterback Ryan McQuade barks out signals Saturday in Sterling. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 19, 2012 1:13PM

Ryan McQuade couldn’t wipe the grin off his face Saturday afternoon, for good reason.

The senior quarterback for the Aurora Christian football team had just helped lead his team to a 41-7 victory over Sterling Newman in an IHSA Class 3A semifinal playoff game that sends them to next week’s title game at the University of Illinois.

It will be an encore performance for the defending 3A champs, but this one will be special for McQuade, who is a first-year starter at the critical offensive position.

Don’t think there was pressure on the 6-foot-4 McQuade this season?

First, he was trying to fill the shoes of Anthony Maddie, who has gone on to Division I Western Michigan. Second, he is the nephew of head coach Don Beebe. And third, with all the talent around him, many thought the Eagles should have a cakewalk.

Interceptions to thwart long opening drives each of the past two weeks had to be weighing on the youngster’s mind as he prepared for this week’s game.

This one, though, would be different. Playing on the first-year field turf surface at Sterling High School was a plus. Then, there was the weather.

“Seriously,” said McQuade. “The weather was perfect. No wind. Sunny.”

And he responded by leading his team on an 80-yard drive capped by a picture-perfect touchdown pass to his right to 6-5 Cory Windle on a slant route.

“And then, we come out on our kickoff and get that fumble recovery that turned the tide. Momentum shifted big time. We were full speed ahead the rest of the way,” he said, capping a short scoring drive with a 26-yard scoring pass to Windle again on the same route, this time on the other side of the field.

McQuade would complete his first eight passes and had TD tosses of 14 and 19 yards to Chad Beebe (8 catches, 97 yards) before the half ended. At intermission, he was 12 of 16 passing for 154 yards and four scores. He finished with 179 yards passing, including four for 63 to Windle.

Yes, McQuade was picked off twice on what appeared to be two underthrown balls in the second half.

“My fault, bad read, bad throw,” he would say later. “I’ve gotta keep my team, tempo-wise, up. But looking back and seeing 41-7 (on the scoreboard).”

Again, the smile, his eyes moist.

“It’s so surreal, all these guys that played here before are here, cheering us on now,” he said, looking at various alumni, including current Wheaton College QB Jordan Roberts who had led the Eagles to their first state championship game.

“What a great feeling. What a great atmosphere. I just thank God for this. Praise be to God.”

McQuade was a wideout on last year’s team that went to Champaign and took state.

“It was a great feeling, obviously,” he said of the memory.

“Now, to know I’m leading the team to state, it’s just such a different feeling.”

Like a burden lifted from his shoulders, he was asked.

“Honestly, yes,” he said. “Now that we’re down at the show, bring everything. Bring it on. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

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