AURORA — There are times when Adams Central football coach Shawn Mulligan gets a little frustrated watching his offense. His defense, however, has been a whole other matter.
On Friday night in Aurora, his third-ranked Patriots (Omaha World-Herald) pitched their second straight playoff shutout in a 17-0 win over sixth-ranked Aurora. In doing so, AC held the Huskies to 103 yards of total offense and no first downs in the first half.
“Josh Lewis, our defensive coordinator, has so much passion for this team,” Mulligan said. “He has grown so much in the last six years when I took over the job. It’s an entire team effort. By that I mean the guys that are out there, the guys that sub in.
“They just fly to the ball, you saw that all night long. These kids just fight. We didn’t know that coming into the season. It’s very businesslike with this group.”
Aurora coach Kyle Peterson, whose team won the Class C-1 state championship last year, said this defense is as good as he has seen in quite some time.
“They have just excellent team speed,” said Peterson, whose Huskies finished 7-4. “They are really aggressive at all three levels. They move their linemen around enough to compensate for their lack of size and that gives you problems. They are so technical in what they do and are so sound.
“And, they have playmakers in the back end that even when something goes wrong for them up front you can’t make a big play because of what they have behind it.”
As has been the case most of the year, the Patriots got on the board on their first possession when quarterback Evan Johnson scrambled in from 24 yards out. The run capped 12-play, 67-yard drive which turned out to be all Adams Central needed.
AC drove again late in the first quarter and settled for Tyler Slechta’s 28-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. The Patriot defense held Aurora to 16 yards in the first half as the Huskies punted four times and were turned away in the red zone after a botched punt gave them the ball on the Patriot 19.
“Our defense just doesn’t break,” Mulligan said. “We might bend a little bit. Early in the game, we gave them that short field and our defense wouldn’t let them in.”
The Patriots all but settled things right after the half. AC went 73 yards in just five plays — aided by a pass interference penalty — when Johnson connected with Lief Spady on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
In a game that featured just 16 total possessions — eight on each side — AC would only have the ball two more times and it ran out the final 8:11 of the game behind the running of the Gabe Conant, who finished with 152 yards on 30 carries.
Peterson said he was proud of how his team battled back after a 1-3 start against four teams bound for the playoffs and two — Wahoo and Adams Central — who are in the semifinals next week.
“We have high expectations here,” Peterson said, “and maybe sometimes too ridiculously high. We won a district championship and that’s always our No. 1 goal because it sets you up for the postseason. We won a playoff game, a road playoff game, which was fun.
“This group of seniors has been part of a bunch of great things. I hope one end to one season doesn’t sour that for them.”
The Patriots, 11-0 for the first time in school history, now prepare for a semifinal against second-ranked Pierce which was a 49-21 winner over Ord.
“We are just trying to go 1-0 every week,” Mulligan said.