The biggest storyline for Friday’s Class C-1 playoff quarterfinal between No. 3 Adams Central and No. 6 Aurora is easy to figure out.
In the first game of the season, a more experienced Patriots squad topped the defending C-1 champions — who had graduated a majority of their starters — 24-8.
Now, 10 weeks later, have the Huskies improved enough to make up that 16-point deficit?
This is a rematch that Aurora (7-3) hoped would happen.
“I told our kids after that Adams Central game in Week 1 that if we did everything that we needed to do to get better and improve ourselves, we would have a chance to play them again because they will be there,” Huskies coach Kyle Peterson said. The Patriots certainly have lived up to high preseason expectations. They are 10-0 and haven’t seen any opponent stay closer than that 16-point margin.
Adams Central has posted four shutouts in its past five games.
“You know if you’re playing Aurora in a playoff game, then you’re in a good spot,” Patriots coach Shawn Mulligan said.
Peterson feels that his team did make the improvements that it needed over the course of the season after starting out 1-3 with the losses coming to Adams Central, C-1 No. 1 Wahoo and Class B No. 4 Northwest.
“Going into Week 1, we were so inexperienced in so many key positions,” he said. “When we played Adams Central, we were not experienced in the secondary, and that’s not a good thing when you’re playing a team as talented as they are at quarterback and receivers. They exposed that quickly.
“We’re more sound now and we got kids in the right positions to be successful.”
Offensively, as Aurora got a ground game going, the wins started coming too.
“Offensively we have an identity,” Peterson said. “We had an identity last year too and maybe we played to that a little too much over the first few weeks. Once we started realizing what our identity was this year, we were more successful.”
Even a team returning a majority of its starters like Adams Central improves over the course of a season too, though, so the Patriots won’t be the exact same opponent for the Huskies either.
“I think we’ve improved our overall consistency,” Mulligan said. “We didn’t improve anywhere by huge leaps and bounds, but I think our confidence has grown. We know that we’re a pretty good football team. Beating Aurora in the first game was good for us.”
One question about the Patriots is could they have been too successful this season? They are in the second round of the playoffs and haven’t been truly tested in the fourth quarter yet. Their two 16-point wins over Aurora and Gothenburg both came in September.
“It has been quite a while,” Mulligan said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing because the team is playing so well or if you’d rather have been challenged.”
That challenge could come on Friday. Mulligan said the improvements the Huskies have made on offense and defense are easy to see when studying film.
But Peterson has noticed that Adams Central’s linemen are playing at a much higher level than in Week 1, so that will be an added challenge for the Huskies.
And he’s impressed that the Patriots have stayed healthy all season long.
“The same kids who started in Week 1 are starting now,” he said.
Just like any coach who wants to avoid jinxing his team in the health department, Mulligan jokingly says “next question” when that topic comes up.
Aurora has battled its injuries throughout the season but should be in good shape in that department.
How much has Aurora improved? How would Adams Central deal with a close game down the stretch?
See what the answers to those questions are around 9:30 p.m. Friday night.
ADAMS CENTRAL 24, AURORA 16