WHEATON – Aurora Christian carried a burst of energy into the locker room at halftime following John Knight’s 38-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the second quarter that sliced St. Francis’ lead to 14-12.
The Spartans, however, quickly regained the momentum, scoring touchdowns on their first 2 second-half possessions on the way to a 42-12 Metro Suburban Red victory over the visiting Eagles Friday night at Kuhn Memorial Stadium in Wheaton.
St. Francis improved to 6-0 overall, 3-0 in conference play.
“Those kids (Aurora Christian) came out fired up and we didn’t match the intensity,” said Spartans coach Bob McMillen. “It was the same thing I talked about all week -- that we had to play four quarters of football. They came out in the first half and punched us in the mouth.
“We came out in the second half and made some adjustments and were able to take it to them.”
Junior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic (11 of 18, 171 yards) capped a 9-play, 86-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on the Spartans’ opening possession of the second half to make it 21-12.
After the defense held Aurora Christian to a 3-and-out series, Milivojevic tossed a 29-yard TD pass -- his third of the night -- to Connor Shields as the Spartans extended their lead to 28-12.
From there, the Spartans’ defense took over, as senior linebacker Danny French pressured Eagles quarterback Max Bray, who attempted to throw the ball away, but the pass wound up behind the line of scrimmage, and junior Dom Beres recovered the fumble and raced 50 yards for a touchdown.
St. Francis’ 21-point third-quarter barrage made it 35-12.
“In the second half, we were a completely different football team,” said French, who recorded 3 sacks and numerous pressures. “We had to check ourselves at halftime. We had to talk to each other and figure it out.”
St. Francis grabbed a 7-0 lead on Milivojevic’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Ian Willis early in the first quarter, but the Eagles (3-3, 1-2) answered back on Bray’s 26-yard TD toss to sophomore Jonan Miceli (3 catches, 48 yards).
Milivojevic’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Zach Washington gave the Spartans a 14-6 first-quarter lead.
Knight’s pick-6 closed the gap to 14-12, and the Eagles nearly took the halftime lead, as Zach Zeppia’s 49-yard field goal attempt fell just short in the final seconds.
“I thought that it was in,” said Eagles coach David Beebe.
Bray completed 14 of 31 passes for 141 yards while adding 60 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“I’m super proud of our kids,” said Beebe. “I don’t like moral victories, but the reality is these kids got a glimpse of how good they can be. Let’s give credit where credit is due -- St. Francis has a big-play offense and they’re sound defensively. For half the game, we went toe to toe with them
“We’re in playoff mode at this point. We’re 3-3 and we’ve got to get at least two more (wins).”
With its sixth win, St. Francis secured a playoff berth.
“We’re 6-0, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said McMillen.