The excitement level is unmistakable in St. Charles as the North Stars enjoy an unprecedented playoff run.
No. 22 St. Charles North (9-3) became the first football team in city history to advance to a state semifinal with last weeks 21-10 victory at No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville South.
The North Stars host No. 7 Mt. Carmel (11-1) on Saturday with a Class 7A title-game berth on the line.
The ubiquitous political yard signs that covered lawns around town a week ago have been replaced by yard signs encouraging neighbors to attend the most important prep football game in St. Charles history.
The signs hang in downtown store fronts, too. “Fans … We need you!!!” they read. “Come cheer on your SCN football state semifinalists Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at St. Charles North High School.”
In a show of civic support for the North Stars, the beacon atop the City Hall Tower shines blue this week.
“The city has gotten involved now and thats exciting to see,” sixth-year North coach Rob Pomazak said. “For me, its all those little things that you kind of hoped and wished for and imagined would have happened a lot sooner. It has taken six years to get to this point now where we really feel like, wow, its really a football community. And thats really cool. The best thing has been seeing how the community is rallying around us.”
The North Stars face one of the most successful programs in IHSA history. Since 1980, Mt. Carmel has made 16 championship-game appearances and won 12 state titles, most recently in 2013.
“Thats the team I grew up watching on Thanksgiving in the nineties,” Pomazak said, “but I think for this generation of kids its a little different. Im just so excited that we are in a position to play a great program again. I feel great about where were at, win or lose, but the whole idea is not to be satisfied. You never know when youre going to get back here so were putting it all in.”
No. 4 Batavia (12-0) makes its fourth semifinal appearance under eighth-year coach Dennis Piron on Saturday at 1 p.m.
A win at No. 6 Nazareth Academy (11-1) would allow the Bulldogs to defend their 2017 Class 7A state championship next Saturday in Champaign, the goal all along.
“Our kids have done a remarkable job managing those expectations and competing at the level they have,” Piron said. “Im proud of this group of kids and all the kids that have played here to build something special they can all be a part of. Ill be eternally grateful to be here at this point in time when everything has been aligned just right.”
With flying colors: No. 1 Cary-Grove (12-0) has aced some difficult tests ahead of Saturdays 3 p.m. Class 6A semifinal at No. 6 Notre Dame (10-2).
In Week 4, the Trojans went to Huntley and knocked off the 3-0 Red Raiders, a team brimming with confidence after knocking off two-time defending state champion Prairie Ridge the week before.
The Trojans scored 55 points in the regular-season finale against DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central, a ranked Class 8A team.
They eliminated defending Class 5A champion Phillips last week, though the Wildcats had elite athletes all over the field.
“Our kids have answered the call every week throughout the year and it doesnt get much bigger than this week,” Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. “Weve had a lot of times this year where weve had to really battle in games. I just love how our kids compete and really play as a team.”
Don Beebe to coach Aurora: Nine-year NFL receiver Don Beebe will return to the sideline as the next head coach at Aurora University, the school announced Thursday.
Beebe, 53, attended Division III Aurora for one year and played basketball for the Spartans. The Sugar Grove native transferred to Chadron State in Nebraska and was eventually noticed by NFL scouts.
Beebe stepped away from coaching at Aurora Christian after last season following 14 years as either head coach or assistant. The two-time state champion high school coach is ready for a new challenge at the collegiate level.
“I am honored to coach AU football, drawing on my NFL, coaching and training experience and bringing it home where my roots are, where I was born and raised and my family and I still live,” Beebe said via release. “I knew mentoring kids was my calling when I retired and sports is my avenue to do that. I care about my players and want to instill in them the importance of never settling for mediocrity. I want our Spartan football players to think big. With hard work and commitment they can and will achieve great things.”
Beebe was the first NFL player to appear in six Super Bowls, four with the Buffalo Bills. He won a ring with the 1996 Green Bay Packers.
The new coach replaces Rick Ponx, who was let go earlier this week after five seasons and a 20-30 record. The Spartans finished 5-5 this season.
“Bringing in Don Beebe raises the ceiling quite a bit for recruiting and leading our drive to win conference championships and compete on a national level,” Aurora University athletic director Jim Hamad said.
“And while we are thrilled to have an NFL veteran coach our student athletes, it is Dons mentorship on and off the field that gives us the most excitement. Don has led a life of character and integrity and we are confident our students will respond to his guidance. I think the future is brighter than ever for AU athletics.”
The Aurora Spartans have hired NFL legend Don Beebe as their new head football coach. He replaces Rick Ponx, who was left go this week.
The former head coach was 20-30 during his five-year tenure. In his final season, he guided his program to a 5-5 record with a four-game win streak.
I am honored to coach AU football, drawing on my NFL, coaching and training experience and bringing it home where my roots are, where I was born and raised my family and still live, Beebe said. I knew mentoring kids was my calling when I retired and sports is my avenue to do that. I care about my players and want to instill in them the importance of never settling for mediocrity. I want our Spartan football players to think big. With hard work and commitment they can and will achieve great things.
Beebe is also the founder of the House of Speed that he started in 1998. This facility specializes in training athletes to improve their top performance, speed, and character.
The 53-year-old Beebe previously was the Aurora Christian High School football coach from 2004 through 2013. He guided the team to the 2011 IHSA Class 3A State Championship with a 34-7 win over Mt. Carmel.
One year later, he also guided the team to the IHSA Class 3A State Championship again with a 42-12 win over Tolono-Unity.
He left the school with a 97-26 record. He was replaced by his brother, David Beebe, who was the defensive coordinator while he served as the head coach.
Bringing in Don Beebe raises the ceiling quite a bit for recruiting and leading our drive to win conference championships and compete on a national level, said Jim Hamad, director of athletics at Aurora University. And while we are thrilled to have an NFL veteran coach our student athletes, it is Dons mentorship on and off the field that gives us the most excitement. Don has led a life of character and integrity and we are confident our students will respond to his guidance. I think the future is brighter than ever for AU Athletics.
Beebe played for the Buffalo Bills from 1989-1994. He played one season with the Carolina Panthers, before playing the final two seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers in 1996 and 1997.
He became the first player to appear in six Super Bowls in his career. However, he has one Super Bowl Championship to his name with a Super Bowl XXXI ring.
He may be best remembered for a play that happened during Super Bowl XXVII. After Leon Lett recovered a fumble and ran towards the goal line, Beebe hit the ball out of his hands right before the goal line.