Will the Swordsmen slice apart a flying Falcon?
Or will the Falcons swirl beyond the reach of the Swordsmen?
A set of CIF-Southern Section championship rings is on the line to the team can live up to their mascots’ best features.
Santa Fe Springs St. Paul High School’s 14-10 win over top-seeded Culver City, matched by Aquinas’ 24-21 win over third-seeded Glendora at Citrus College in last week’s CIF, Division 5 semifinals sent both sides into this week’s championship game.
St. Paul (12-1), which hosts Friday night’s title game, concluded the season ranked fifth while Aquinas (11-2) was seventh in the Division 6 polls entering post-season play.
That the schools are Catholic-based educational campuses is only a small slice of the story.
The game lines up this way: St. Paul’s only loss came against Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, a team that is lining up in its own division championship this week.
As for Aquinas, its two losses came against defending CIF Division 8 champion Fontana Kaiser, not to mention Simi Valley Grace Brethren, which will play for this year’s Division 3 championship.
Last week’s win at Glendora came after fighting off a furious rally by the Tartans, who watched Falcons’ placekicker Angel Pais deliver a 30-yard field goal with three seconds left to send Aquinas into its second championship game in three seasons -- third spot in the finals over a four-year span.
Falcons’ QB Francisco Mauigoa, a transfer who reached the lineup in Week 6, watched Pais nail his first field goal of the season.
Aquinas’ scoring before Pais’ game-winner:
* Terayon Sweet (83 yards, 17 carries) scored from three yards out.
* Sweet barged in from eight yards.
* Mauigoa (14-of-22, 191 yards) hit Terance Fall (4 catches, 121 yards) on a 34-yard TD, a third quarter score that left Aquinas ahead, 21-14.
If there was a turnaround for Aquinas, it came on defense. Two interceptions, one from Brent Austin and another from Fall, while holding Tartans’ RB Xzavier Ford to just 16 yards in the second half, helped lift the Falcons into this week’s title game.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 43, Univ. Redlands 14 -- In Belton, Texas, the Bulldogs showed some early special teams success en route to their 10th straight NCAA Division III opening round playoff loss.
A Jeff Hector kickoff return to the 50 proved no value to Redlands, forced to punt. Punter Alex Raya delivered his kick to the Crusaders’ 14.
But MHB, already leading 7-0, drove downfield before getting Jase Hammack’s second TD pass, a 13-yarder to Gary Ruckman after a fumbled punt. Hammack tossed his third TD pass before halftime for a 21-0 lead.
By the time Redlands scored, QB Nathan Martinez had been knocked out of the game. Backup Eric Kump scored on a 1-yard run and later found Kai Kang on a 62-yard TD pass.
MHB’s Keith Gipson recovered a fumbled punt, scored on a 64-yard punt return, then intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards for another TD.
Redlands finished 9-2.
It took SCIAC champion Chapman University-Orange three overtimes, three QBs totaling 340 yards passing before Tanner Mendoza (173 yards rushing) delivered a 13-yard run to win.
In the American Championship Bowl, undefeated Chaffey College (11-0) jump out to a 16-0 halftime lead before San Bernardino Valley came roaring back to pull within three points with backup QB David Schmucker taking snaps for injured Jeremy Moussa.
Chaffey won, 33-20, but had to hold up against 2 Schmucker TD passes and an option TD pass from WR Tate Pringle.
Jhalen Hanes and Jaiden Roe each picked off Panthers’ QB Caden Arreola, who threw for 330 yards.
SBVC finished 9-2.
Aquinas (11-2) at St. Paul (12-1), 7:30 p.m. -- The Swordsmen have split eight CIF championship appearances, including a win over Colton High School at Anaheim Stadium in 1981 before nearly 30,000 fans.
This year’s St. Paul squad is a run-oriented, defense-dominated squad, RB Trenell Ridgely carrying 37 times for 133 yards in last week’s win over Culver City. It was QB Gene Valdez who scored from 16 yards out in a third quarter TD run before St. Paul turned to its defense to stop the no-huddle Centaurs.
The Falcons have won three of their four CIF championship appearances beginning in 2000.