Today marks the first time an Aurora high school plays for a state championship in football.
Here are some words from three men who took their team to the semi-finals, but weren't able to get over the hump in Mike Curry (Aurora Central Catholic), Paul Murphy (Marmion Academy and current Waubonsie Valley coach) and B.J. Luke (Waubonsie Valley), as well as former Aurora University coach Jim Scott, who along with the Aurora Noon Lions annually hosts the Aurora football coaches at Luigi's for a pre-season roundtable.
"It is a first. It was going to happen sooner or later," Curry said. "Somebody was going to do it. It just so happens that this year Aurora Christian, things fell into place for them."
Mike Curry - won 2 state titles in 1981 and 1986 at Freeport Aquin. He lost a 1980 semi-final at Aquin and in 1994 at Aurora Central Catholic:
Paul Murphy: - has won over 100 games in his career and coached Marmion Academy to the 1989 semi-finals. He has taken Waubonsie Valley to the playoffs in three of the last four years.
B.J. Luke - has won over 100 games in his career, and coached both Yorkville (1982) and Waubonsie Valley (1992) to the semi-finals. He is the current head coach at A.D. at Danville High School. He has made the playoffs 15 times.
On what it takes to get to a state title
Health & Luck
Curry: One of the keys at this particular juncture is for the most part they're pretty healthy. Teams that are healthy at this stage stand a pretty good chance. You've got to healthy and you've got to have some luck. When I was at Freeport Aquin we were lucky enough to do it twice, and each time we were lucky to get it done.
There was luck involved in both of those victories we had and you have to have the ball bounce your way. It's your kind of season if the ball bounces for you. There were times when Aurora Christian's back was against the wall, even last week, where the ball bounced their way. When things like that happen you know it's your year.
I'll be the first to admit this, when it happened to us twice in Freeport, you have to, have to have the ball bounce your way and for you to be healthy. Those two things, people don't put a whole lot of stock in that. Sometimes people, even if they watch every single game and every single play, they remember the times of spectacular plays, but they don't remember the times and plays in the game that were lucky. And if the ball (doesn't) bounce your way, you could lose. We had those games at Freeport too. It's Aurora Christian's year. They've got a tough opponent though. I hope they can hang in there.
Luke: I think back to some of the tough finishes in the playoffs that we had and I agree with Coach Curry. We lost on a two point conversion twice - once in the quarterfinals and once in the semi-finals and those are the things that stick with you for a long, long time. You have to have a lot of things go right, you have to have the ability and you have a lot of things going in your direction and you also have to have a little amount of luck also. And you always like to have a little bit of that on your side. Overall, it comes down to ability and the kids making the breaks. It sounds like Aurora Christian has done a good job of making their own breaks during the season."
Curry: But I always thought, and I've been through this two times before and two other times in the semi-finals and got beat so I know what it feels like and get to the semi's and lose close games. Once at Aurora Central and once at Freeport Aquin, and the next year you come back hungry. I think that was part of the deal this year for Aurora Christian because they were hungry after what happened to them last year. And you have to be. You have to be focused, get on the bus, go play your game, go home, get in your routine and do the same thing week in and week out and they've done that.
The Right Players
Murphy: It boils down to getting that group of young men, which Coach Beebe has done at Aurora Christian that are committed to attaining a goal. A lot of teams have had the talent to get there and sometimes you just run out of gas. They wore down, got distracted or whatever the reasons are you don't finish the goal.
I haven't been that close to the Aurora Christian scene this year other than the coach's night they had back in August and I challenged Coach Beebe to get to the championship game because I knew he had a good team coming back. And I congratulate them because they got it done. They've worked extremely hard to get there and I'm sure they had a few breaks along the way and for the most part they made it happen.
The Right Coach
Luke: They've also got a pretty good football guy coaching them too. We competed against him when I was at Yorkville in the early 80's and he was a good competitor then and I'm sure he's a good competitor as a coach and that always helps because your teams always take on the personality of he coach and they've got a good on there.
Scott: They struggled for several years with numbers but they stayed the course and then (coach Andrew Price) kind of got a foundation going and then Coach Beebe has great name recognition and he's kind of an icon in the Fox River valley and well respected will be a magnet for people.
But he is also a very devoted Christian, so he has a couple things going in his favor for that particular school. He lives the life, he has a great reputation, which in itself doesn't make him a great coach but honestly he has great people skills and he has taken some things from his lessons in life. He had a different way of getting to the NFL. He went to Aurora college as a freshman, then he went to Western and then he went to Chadron State and the rest is history. So, he honestly can relate and he can teach. So many people with his background can't teach, but he can teach. Maybe it's because he got involved with his House of Speed. That was successful and a lot of people try to have those and they aren't successful, so obviously he has some teaching ability and he's done it the right way. He has some skill player and has coached them up.
note: The Aurora Noon Lions will host their basketball coaches night on Dec. 3 at Luigis. A $10 donation is appreciated with dinner at 7 pm and the program beginning at 8 pm.