AURORA — Several of his players were in kindergarten back then. A few were in preschool, but most of them were infants. Bob Mihalik, on the other hand, remembers it well.
Yes, it was 13 long years ago since it happened. Nevertheless, the Aurora head football coach still appreciates a certain old, widely used phrase.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold."
The fourth-seeded Greenmen kept their stellar season going with a tense 27-21 victory over fifth-seeded Steubenville.
The Division III, Region 9 quarterfinal contest took place Friday at Veterans Stadium.
With the win, Aurora, which improved to 11-0 for the first time this century, earned a date with top-seeded New Philadelphia. That Region 9 semifinal game is scheduled to take place Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time the Greenmen ran into the mighty Big Red, who finished its season 6-4, who has won four state championships since 1984, including three in the current millennium.
In 2006, Aurora butted heads with Steubenville in the Division III state semifinals.
To put it mildly, it was downright disastrous for the Greenmen.
Big Red lit up Aurora with a 48-13 thumping on its way to a state title.
Was revenge on the Greenmen’s minds when they took the field? Nah.
"I don’t think our kids really cared about that," said Mihalik, who is in his 19th year as Aurora’s head coach. "The coaches respect the history more than the kids do. We thought we were the better football team going in — not by much."
They were by a grain of salt.
After playing a game of "Anything you can do, I can do better" in the second quarter, the Greenmen controlled matters in the second half to earn their first playoff win since 2016.
Aurora needed some magic late in the half to earn some much-needed momentum.
After trading scores on four consecutive second-quarter possessions, the Greenmen took the lead for good with a ruthlessly efficient three-play, 65-yard drive that took just 25 seconds to complete.
Trailing 14-10 with 42 seconds left in the first half, sophomore quarterback Alex Moore completed a 45-yard pass to Ben Rogge to put Aurora in the red zone.
Two plays later, Moore avoided a near sack to complete a short pass to AJ Barner on the right side. The senior tight end/linebacker did the rest as he dived toward the pylon for a 10-yard score. Senior kicker Alex Bibza added the first of his three extra points to give the Greenmen a 17-14 lead with 17 seconds left.
"I thought our passing offense was lights out [Friday]," Mihalik said. "We didn’t think we were going to be able to pound the ball on them like a traditional Aurora offense, but I think our passing game took them a little bit by surprise."
Aurora appeared to be in business since it got the second-half kickoff. But a long return by senior Lenny Galaska turned into disaster. The ball popped loose and Steubenville recovered at its 48-yard line.
No worries for the Greemen, though.
Aurora’s defense got a crucial stop and then stringed together a masterful, 10-play, 62-yard drive to take a 24-14 lead.
Moore kept the drive alive with a 19-yard on fourth down and then found the end zone from a yard away two plays later.
"We thought we had a good plan coming out," Mihalik said. "Lenny made a nice return. We thought he was down. Hats off to our defense to stop them and not give them the score."
The same couldn’t be said on Big Red’s next possession.
Thanks to a 63-yard run by senior tailback Tayveon Crawford, Steubenville made it a one-score game (24-21).
Bibza extended the Greenmen’s lead to six (27-21) when he booted a 28-yard field goal with a little less than five minutes left.
Aurora’s defense did the rest.
Barner used his 6-foot-5 frame to knock down a fourth-down pass on Steubenville’s final possession.
"I think it’s just a credit to our seniors," Mihalik said. "To be on our home field for the last time, we told them: ‘You always remember your last game at home. You want to go out the right way.’ I can’t think of a better way to beat a team like Steubenville in your last home game."
Moore, who continues to shine in his first year as a starter, completed 16-of-20 passes for 303 yards. He also ran for 38 yards and scored two touchdowns. Bibza added a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter. Junior running back Evan McVay led the Greenmen’s receiving corps with nine receptions for 172 yards.
Crawford, who concluded his stellar season with 2,105 yards and 29 TDs, finished with 189 yards and a score on 28 carries. Big Red senior quarterback Randy Mitchell added 101 yards and a score on 15 carries. Mitchell also completed a 6-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Stone Biacco.
When it comes to the 2006 debacle, the current players’ response to such a beatdown was most likely this: "Big deal."
It wasn’t quite that simple for Mihalek.
"It certainly wasn’t like 2006 when we played them back then and they whooped us pretty good," he said. "For all our alumni out there from 2006, we got back one. This one is for them."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.