That tiny little campus over in northeastern San Bernardino lights up a handful of times every fall. Sure, it revolves around football. What high school campus doesn’t? It’s the Little Campus That Could.
Aquinas High has a distinctive flair when it kicks off to an opposing team.
They’re strong and deadly. No Ambassador League team has beaten the Falcons in the past four seasons. They marched right into the playoffs with a home game in round one. The 2017 CIF Division 9 champions have been thrust into Division 5 the past few seasons.
It’s a neighborhood school that doesn’t necessarily attract kids from that neighborhood. Aquinas is a private Catholic school. They don’t apologize. They just advocate education -- not to mention theater, music, plus sports.
Not that it doesn’t have its share of problems, like any school. Heavens, we’ve heard it all. Some parents have not so kindly lined up to express their views. Plenty more, though, have shared positive commentaries; not all of those were athletically motivated.
Don’t try to derail a campus that’s just trying to help, I always say.
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Heading into last weekend’s game against conference rival Mt. San Antonio College, the two statewide powers collided with ex-Falcon Branden Rankins as one of the Hornets’ top weapons with a pair of 100-yard games in late-season wins.
Mt. SAC won, 20-13. Rankins touched the ball five times, four carries, 42 yards, plus a two-yard catch. They should’ve looked at some of his Aquinas video.
Rankins, a four-year star at Aquinas who was the Falcons’ money back on its 2017 CIF championship team, racked up an amazing 3,032 yards alone that season with 43 TDs.
Someone should submit Rankins’ 8,645-yard career rushing total to the CIF-Southern Section. He’d be No. 2 all-time, trailing only Norco’s Toby Gerhardt (9,662 yards), who was a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Stanford back in 2007.
Rankins also scored 114 TDs. He could take over St. Bonaventure’s Lorenzo Booker’s No. 2 spot all-time (8,502 yards).
Think of it. Rankins could be considered CIF royalty. From Aquinas. If they’d only submit.
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It’s more than American football at Aquinas.
A couple years back, Brazilian influence -- Brazil is practically where soccer was invented -- showed up to play at Aquinas. Turns out those kids turned the Falcons into CIF champions. Jardel Santos and Rafael Flauzino sure supported a strong group of already-existing players to a brilliant 28-3 mark.
Then there’s Tia Chavira, a volleyball player who helped power a fourth place Lady Falcons’ squad to the CIF Southern California Regional’s back in 2017. In a league dominated by state power Ontario Christian, Chavira put Aquinas on the map in a unique playoff run that ended with a loss to San Diego Section power Point Loma.
More of an attacker at Aquinas, Chavira is setting at Long Beach State. In a 6-2 attack, she and Carley Aigner-Swesey have netted over a thousand assists this season alone.
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Softball star Bobbiann Pratt inked with Boise State last week.
There’s some precedence for Aquinas softball success at the highest collegiate level. Zoe Casas, who hit about .700 for the Lady Falcons a handful of years ago, trekked off to Florida State where she played on the 2018 NCAA championship Lady Seminoles.
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Aquinas is seeking a new baseball coach to replace Chris Montanez. By now, they might’ve named one.
Then there’s this:
Nick Karavedas, a staff member at Aquinas, scoots on down the road to coach at Sunny Hills High in Fullerton each day during football season.
We were chatting last week and Nick hit me up with a question.
“So who are you covering on Friday night?” he asked me.
“I’m sending a shooter (photographer) to the Aquinas game,” I told him, “and I’m covering San G.”
San Gorgonio was playing Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills High.
“That’s a huge game,” said Karavedas, “for San G. Trabuco Hills is a tough team.”
Here’s the angle: Karavedas is helping his son, Peter, coach Sunny Hills. He’s got defensive backs.
If San G had KO’d Trabuco Hills, the Spartans would’ve played Sunny Hills Fullerton’s school district field in the CIF Division 8 semifinals this week.
Even if Aquinas’ football team couldn’t pull out a CIF Division 5 championship, maybe one of its staff members could help pull off a Division 8 crown.
I smell a 2020 non-league duel between Sunny Hills and Aquinas.
There’s a lot going on at this campus.