Aurora Overpowers Eureka in NACC Opener, 62-35

Photo courtesy of Albion Athletics.
Photo courtesy of Albion Athletics.

AURORA, Ill.  — Saturday didn't go as planned for the Eureka football team in Aurora.

In the long-awaited showdown between the co-preseason North Athletics Collegiate Conference favorites, the Red Devils couldn't keep up with the Spartans and their No. 1 offense in the country, and as a result, left Vago Field with a 62-35 loss.

EC quarterback Drew Barth (Minok, Ill./Fieldcrest) threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns on 30-of-48 passing without conceding a single interception in the loss.

 James Douglas III (Orlando, Fla./Deltona) hauled in a career-high 10 receptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns. EC's speedy wide receiver has now scored three touchdowns in three of four games this season.

Fellow receiver Caleb Fauver (Caltin, Ill./Salt Fork) was also prolific, recording seven receptions for 79 yards, while Pierce Bradford (Decatur, Ill./Argenta-Oreana) finished with two catches for 67 yards and Kolbi Crittenden (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) had two catches, 37 yards and scored his first career touchdown.

It just couldn't compare to what Aurora brought to the table on Saturday.

Aurora rolled up 534 yards of total offense, with 342 coming in the air and 220 on the ground. The Spartans lived up to their reputation, scoring at least two touchdowns in every quarter.

The Red Devils kept pace with the home team for a good chunk of the first half.

A 1-yard touchdown toss from Barth to Grant Jochums (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) on fourth down with 12:10 left in the second quarter tied the game at 14-14.

The Red Devils' defense forced Aurora to punt on the next possession, and the Red Devils were just a few plays into what could have been a momentum-swinging drive when the Spartans forced Douglas to fumble on the Eureka 41.

Aurora's Casey Dycus ran it 19 yards to the Eureka 22, then Aurora quarterback Gavin Zimbelman hit Jacolby Olson on a go-ahead 22-yard touchdown reception with 9:04 left in the half.

To make the turn of events worse for EC, Aurora elected to try an on-side kick on the kickoff and managed to recover. Six plays later, the Spartans were in the end zone again, extending the lead to two scores.

By the time the half was over, Aurora had posted 21 unanswered points to take a 35-14 lead into the break.

On the first play of the second half, Zimbelman connected with Connor Olson for a 75-yard touchdown reception that made it a lopsided 42-14.

The Spartans would score one more time before the fourth quarter came around, turning what was once a tight contest into a 35-point game.

With the game out of reach, the Red Devils chipped away at the lead with three scores in the fourth quarter.

A 5-yard toss from Barth to Douglas at the start of the quarter completed an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive. A 61-yard catch-and-run for a score by Douglas on the next drive put EC on the board again, and Crittenden's 20-yard touchdown reception ended EC's scoring streak with 7:40 left in the game.

Zimbelman finished with 342 yards and seven touchdowns on 18-for-40 passing for Aurora while two of his receivers went over the 100-yard mark. Maxwell made five catches for a team-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, and Olson notched four for 105 and three scores.

The Spartans also got a 150-yard rushing performance from Tyran Bailey.

With the loss, EC fell to 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in the NACC. It was only team's second NACC loss in its eight tries since joining the league last season.

The Red Devils will finish their three-game road swing and vie for their first NACC win of 2019 at Wisconsin Lutheran (1-3, 1-0) next Saturday at 4 p.m.