For two years, coach Don Beebe has been touting who he perceives as the next great quarterback at Aurora Christian, the multi-talented youngster who will follow in the footsteps of Jordan Roberts, Nate Peterson and Anthony Maddie, who rank 1-2-5 in state history for touchdown passes in a career.
Beebe, who once caught passes from Hall of Famer Jim Kelly for the Buffalo Bills, knows a quarterback when he sees one. And before the 2012 season began, he felt 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore Austin Bray would be his starting quarterback.
But he forgot to tell Ryan McQuade.
"Going into the summer, I was going to start Bray. He will be a good one," Beebe said. "He was the starter. Then we competed in a 7-on-7 tournament with Kaneland, Batavia and Neuqua Valley and Ryan lit it up from a leadership standpoint. Then we went to a national 7-on-7 tournament in Arkansas and finished third out of 32 teams and Ryan lit it up again. We knew he would be our quarterback this year. As he progressed, I knew he would have a big year."
Truth be told, Beebe had to be nudged a little. McQuade is Beebe's nephew. No, he didnt ask his mother (Beebe's sister) to intercede in his behalf. Instead, he walked into the coach's office and boldly announced that he wanted a shot at the starting quarterback position.
"I started at outside linebacker on last year's state championship team but my heart is at quarterback," McQuade said. "I knew I was slated to be the backup as a senior when the summer began. I told him I wanted a shot at quarterback. He said Austin has been there and is slated to be the starter.
I said: 'I'll put a lot of time and effort into it and we'll see at the end of the summer.' It worked out good."
"Ryan is an intriguing story. He sat behind (All-Stater) Anthony Maddie for the last two years. It is neat to see him have such a great season because he wanted to play quarterback so much last year but couldn't because of Maddie. But this year we never missed a beat at the quarterback position."
McQuade, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound senior, has completed 192 of 331 passes for 2,973 yards and 42 touchdowns for a 12-1 team that will meet Tolono Unity in the Class 3A championship on Friday in Champaign. He was 12-of-21 for 167 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday's 41-7 semifinal rout of Sterling Newman.
"This team is better than last year. We're playing well, firing on all cylinders," Beebe said. "This is the best defense I've coached in nine years, 11 players who can all play, no weaknesses. In some ways, this also is our best offense. Never before have we had great passing and running games together. Our kicking game is great. And this is the best coaching staff I've had."
One of Beebe's assistants is Bryan Wells, a former dean of students at Neuqua Valley who was fired as head football coach after last season. Wells left the Naperville school to become principal at Aurora Christian. He also is Beebe's special teams coach.
McQuade has found his niche, throwing to wide receivers Chad Beebe and Cory Windle and handing off to Brandon Mayes and Joel Bouganon, who have combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards.
"Honestly, I'm a team guy," McQuade said. "As long as we're winning, that's all I care about. It's a blast playing for my uncle. We have a great mixture. Opponents can't key on one thing. My goals were to pass for 2,500 yards and 30-35 touchdowns. I surpassed all that. But I care about winning and the team the most."
He felt confident in his ability to be the starting quarterback because he knew Beebe was looking for a vocal leader. "That's what he looks for in a quarterback--a true leader. I've worked hard for this. I know the history of the quarterbacks at this school. All I wanted to do is make a name for myself, be confident in my abilities and perform well. I believe I have done that," McQuade said.
What is the scouting report on Tolono Unity? Last year, Aurora Christian crushed Tolono Unity 50-26 in the semifinals. Unity returns quarterback Justin Deters and two Division I recruits, wide receiver Micah Johnson and linebacker Mitch Negangard.
"They know us and we know them from last year's film," Beebe said. "They are the best team we have faced in the playoff. Whoever turns the ball over the least will win the game."