Rankins’ three TDs stand up for Aquinas … Citrus Valley seeks new football coach … Aquinas lands a So Cal Regional championship against Grace Brethren … CIF champs Cajon, Big Bear play on for State title hopes.

After 13 straight games, Aquinas High School hadn’t played a close one all season.

Ridgecrest Burroughs, in losing 24-6 to the Falcons, at least gave Aquinas its closest game of 2017.

For Aquinas, its defense held off the Burros on their own field – QB sacks, recovered fumbles and three interceptions.

Senior running back Branden Rankins cranked off a 15-yard TD run, set up when freshman cornerback Anthony Cooper came up with an interception.

But when Mya Morales snagged a 24-yard TD pass from Burros’ QB Austin Griffin (203 yards, three interceptions), Burroughs was in contention for that elusive CIF Southern Section Division 9 championship.

Rankins, though, scored again late in the second quarter – 14-6 Aquinas lead by halftime.

Where the Falcons really took charge, however, midway through the third quarter. It was Rankins again, this time scoring from 24 yards out (21-6). It was a Miguel Hernandez fumble recovery that stopped a key Burroughs drive.

Early in the fourth quarter, Marceles Gooden’s interception off Griffin eventually set up a field goal from Salieu Ceesay from 21 yards (24-6).

Rankins racked up 263 yards, the victory coming one season after losing the Division 10 championship game to Long Beach St. Anthony, 33-32. If Aquinas had won that game, it would have matched Falcons’ CIF titles in 2000 and 2005.

The win earned the Falcons a Southern California Regional matchup against Division 8 champion Simi Valley Grace Brethren at Moorpark High School on Saturday (6 p.m.).

The winner will play either Mountain View St. Francis (9-4) or Mateca (8-5) for the State title one week later.


Pete Smolin, who apparently showed up as the only legitimate applicant when the Blackhawks’ football program was starting nine seasons ago, will no longer be Citrus Valley’s head coach. He was 43-54 as the school’s head varsity coach between 2009-2017.

The district advertised the position in a Nov. 29 release for intra-district personnel only, at least for now. For the second straight year, a Redlands schools’ varsity football coaching position had opened.

Jim Walker retired at Redlands High following the 2016 season, replaced by interim coach Derrick Dial when the school district failed to hire qualified applicants, including Bob Stangel.

Smolin, for his part, was the lone man to step up in 2009 when Citrus Valley’s campus initially opened.

Human Resources Director Jackie Meyers will take letters of intent, resumes and any other coaching-related data into account for the position.

Smolin’s best season, by far, came in 2011 when Citrus Valley finished 9-2, winning the Mountain Valley League with its first senior class after back-to-back seasons of 2-8 and 3-7.

The Blackhawks lost its 2011 playoff opener to visiting Aquinas.

Since that 2011 season, the Blackhawks have made the playoffs four times. Citrus Valley’s post-season record under Smolin was 2-5 – beating Yucca Valley in 2012 and Fillmore in 2013.

Smolin’s final game was a playoff loss at Victorville Silverado, 56-15, last month.

If no suitable applicants appear from within the Redlands school system, the position will presumably be open to outside candidates.


Big Bear High School, dominated in a Week Zero loss to visiting Aquinas, 40-8, never lost again.

While the Falcons started a 14-game run to their Southern Section Division 9 championship, the Bears marched through a schedule that included a Cross Valley League championship, plus playoff wins over Banning, Riverside Patriot, Santa Ana and a championship win at Santa Maria High School.

The Bears will play at Visalia Golden West High School on Friday in a first-round 5AA Southern Regional game in pursuit of a state championship. The winner will play Oakland McClymonds or East Nicolaus for the 5AA title.

Cajon (13-1) will play Division 3 champion Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (12-2) in a 2AA matchup on Friday night (7:30), the winner to take on San Mateo Serra (11-2) or Tulare Union (13-0) for the State title one week later.

CIF Southern Section Division Championships

Division 1

Santa Ana Mater Dei 49, Bellflower St. John Bosco 24

Division 2

Westlake Village Oaks Christian 20, Valencia 19

Division 3

Rancho Verde 44, St. Francis 42

Division 4

Cajon 54, Downey 28

Division 5

Lancaster Paraclete 49, Moorpark 28

Division 6

Santa Barbara Bishop Diego 37, Santa Clarita Golden Valley 6

Division 7

Orange El Modena 35, Chino Don Lugo 7

Division 8

Simi Valley Grace Brethren 63, Antelope Valley 27

Division 9

Aquinas 24, Ridgecrest Burroughs 6

Division 10

Quartz Hill 26, Dos Pueblos Goleta 21

Division 11

Anaheim Katella 55, Covina 49

Division 12

Big Bear 37, Santa Maria 23

Division 13

Orange 30, Yermo Silver Valley 20

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