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Aurora Christian defense stiffens after slow start

AurorChristian's BrandMayes tackles Tolono Unity's Mitch Negangard behind line scrimmage. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Aurora Christian's Brandon Mayes tackles Tolono Unity's Mitch Negangard behind the line of scrimmage. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 26, 2012 9:46AM

Aurora Christian’s defense was at it again in Friday’s impressive 42-12 title win over Tolono Unity.

After spotting the Rockets a 12-0 lead on their first two possessions, coordinator Dave Beebe’s unit pitched a shutout.

What did the Eagles do different?

“We really didn’t make that many adjustments,” said senior defensive end Josh Kok, who had eight tackles — including two for three yards in losses.

“We decided we had to play harder, read our reads quicker and get to the ball and bring (RB Mitch Negangard) down because he was breaking a few tackles in the first quarter. And, we decided we had to get him on the ground.”

Dave Beebe concurred.

“People say so much about the adjustments and stuff,” he said. “There’s little things we do, but by and large, it’s mental adjustments, getting a little bit sharper, getting a guy on the ground on third down and, when you’re in position, make the play.”

He said the players understand they will face adversity in every game and learn to handle it.

When the Eagles were down 12-0 and coming off the field, Dave Beebe said he told them, “‘I feel good.’ I don’t know why. I had no idea we were gonna score 42 straight points. It would have been crazy to think that, especially with a team like Tolono. They’re a fantastic team.”

Best for last?

“Brandon (Mayes) had a great game, it was probably the best game he’s ever had,” Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said.

The senior standout did a little bit of everything for the Eagles in Friday’s title game win.

Out of the backfield on offense, he ran 12 times for 71 yards, including a 16-yard TD run, and caught one pass for eight yards.

On special teams, he returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up that TD run.

On defense, he was involved in a team-high 11 tackles, tied with LB Joel Bouagnon. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards for another score. In all, Mayes accounted for 224 yards.

“That was his first interception return for a touchdown in his career. (Defensive coordinator) Dave (Beebe) has been chewing his can for that the last half of the season,” Don Beebe said.

“He saved it for the biggest of moments to kind of put the game away.”

On the kickoff, Mayes said, “All I remember is that I didn’t score. The guys up front did a great job of opening things up for me.

“I almost ran one back in our first playoff game, too, but I got caught. I’m gonna have to go to House of Speed or something. I need to figure it out.”

Of the interception, he said, “I knew (intended receiver Micah Johnson) from an NIU camp. He’s really good and really fast, so I just read the QB’s eyes and it was right there for me.”

Mayes, who has blocked three kicks this season, nearly got another on the missed fourth-quarter field goal by Unity kicker Cody Payne that bounced off an upright.

“I missed it by about a millisecond,” Mayes said of his diving attempt. “Then I looked up and was grateful they missed it.”

Call him Peanut?

For the second straight week, Eagles’ sophomore kicker Trevor Hills forced a fumble on a kickoff that resulted in a turnover. This one was recovered in the fourth quarter by Ryan Suttle.

Playmakers rule

Don Beebe is very much aware he is blessed to win back-to-back state crowns and explained at the press conference after the game while flanked by seniors Brandon Mayes, Joel Bouagnon, Josh Kok and Chad Beebe.

“I’ll be honest with you, and I learned this from Marv Levy years ago, you win because you have great players,” the elder Beebe said.

“I have four all-state players standing right next to me and all of them are gonna go on and play college. What can I say, I love these guys like they’re sons, and one of them is one.”

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