AURORA — Bottled up and just about buried, the Aurora football team found itself facing an inevitable defeat.
The host Greenmen rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull off a stunning 14-13 victory over Parma Padua Franciscan Friday at Veterans Stadium.
Aurora, which had zero points and couldn’t do much of anything for three quarters, improved to 4-0 in 2019. The Bruins, who have experienced their share of heartbreak this season, fell to 1-3.
“This is about believing in our program,” Greenmen head coach Bob Mihalik said. “When we were down 13-0 at half, we told them, ‘We’re fine; we’re OK.’ I think what was a good sign was the drive we had at the end of the half. Even though we didn’t score, we showed we had some fight in us.”
Three seniors made the game-changing plays when it mattered most for Aurora.
Trailing 13-0, defensive end Lenny Galaska strip-sacked Padua quarterback Drew Butler. Teammate A.J. Barner, 6-foot-5 linebacker, picked up the loose pigskin and scampered into the end zone untouched. Alex Bibza added the first of his two point-after tries to cut the Bruins’ advantage to 13-7 less than 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“Lenny came around the corner, sacked the kid, stripped it,” Barner said. “I got a good bounce on it and took it to the house.”
A couple possessions later, another senior took center stage.
On a second-and-10 play, running back Tony Gramm found a hole on the left side, bounced off a couple tacklers and then raced down the left sideline for a 45-yard touchdown run. Bibza’s extra point made it 14-13.
“I just felt a couple people tackle me,” Gramm said. “I just kept going. I had a lot of blockers and they just kept me up. They kept me driving and I broke it off.”
Sticking to the senior theme, defensive back Ben Rogge picked off a pass to give the Greenmen the ball with less than three minutes left. From there, sophomore Alex Moore, who injured his hand very late in the game, moved the chains on a gritty third-down run before Aurora went into victory formation.
“I thought Alex Moore’s tough third-down run to keep the possession going was huge, as well,” Mihalik said. “Rogge had the big interception to stop their huge drive. [Friday] was about our program. It was about our seniors refusing to lose. I’m so proud of them.”
Padua got both of its touchdowns in the second quarter. Running back Alex Buehner scored on a 1-yard run for the first points of the game and then Butler completed a 26-yard TD pass to Daniel Peterson to make it 13-0. Galaska blocked the extra point.
The Greenmen outgained the Bruins 243-229. Gramm finished with 111 yards in 12 attempts.