SENECA – Though it was always at the Class 1A and 2A levels, Ted O’Boyle got his teams ready to face playoff opponents in nine different seasons at Flanagan-Cornell.
Preparing for the opponent head coach O’Boyle’s Seneca Fighting Irish will face Saturday in the third round of the 3A playoffs, Aurora Christian, is a task with an unprecedented level of difficulty for O’Boyle.
“Without a doubt, [Aurora Christian is] the best team I’ve ever coached against,” O’Boyle said. “It is what it is, though. It’s the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Every team that’s this deep is gonna be very solid.”
Aurora Christian is the two-time defending Class 3A state champion, though this year’s team has three losses while the 2011 and 2012 teams each lost once. The Eagles started 5-0 before losing to Marmion Academy, IC Catholic and Montini by a combined margin of 132-20. They have bounced back to win their final regular-season game and their first two playoff games by at least 21 points each. Aurora Christian defeated IC Catholic, to which it lost 48-6 during the regular season, 24-3 in the opening round of the playoffs.
Seneca comes in having gained a season-best 454 rushing yards in its 46-6 defeat of Robeson last week. The Irish have now gained over 300 yards on the ground six times. Bo Taylor (1,715) and Tommy Lovett (1,191) have accounted for most of the team’s 3,183 rushing yards.
“For them, it starts with Bo Taylor,” Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said. “Coach O’Boyle did a great job when he took his best athlete and put him at quarterback, where he touches the ball on every play. It’s a different style of running, but make no mistake about it, they are a running team, and stopping that is key.”
Seneca center Colin Griffin said the Eagles, who have held five opponents to seven or fewer points, use a wider variety of defensive formations than anyone the Irish have played.
“We’re just gonna have to adjust to the plays, or to the defenses. Talk and communicate up on the line. Make sure we get to our assignments and stuff,” Griffin said. “We’re motivated to win this game. I think we’re gonna come out, smack them in the mouth and hopefully come up with a big ‘W’ here.”
Eagles quarterback Austin Bray completed 8 of 12 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns in Aurora Christian’s 49-20 defeat over Oregon.
Running back Legend Smith was held to 70 yards on 11 carries but has 1,271 yards on 165 rushes for the season. Collectively, the Eagles have thrown for 1,676 yards and rushed for 1,821.
“They got a very solid quarterback to start with. He’s good about getting guys where they need to be,” O’Boyle said. “They’re not one-dimensional, anyway. They can throw it, they can run it with the backs that they have. They’re just an all-around good team.”