SANTA FE SPRINGS -- Fifteen weeks into a high school football season, it almost seemed like Aquinas High School had more stamina for last week’s CIF Division 5 championship than its opponents.
For well over half of the Falcons’ 21-16 win at St. Paul High School, their spirited followers were waiting for their team to fire.
There was no disappointment.
By early fourth quarter, it looked as if Aquinas had itself another CIF championship. St. Paul, which lost only to CIF Division 2 Sierra Canyon, has a storied history of CIF football wins, said sideliner Scott Welsh.
“Let’s hope,” said Welsh.
“Underdogs,” Welsh called Aquinas, “coming into the game.”
At first, maybe the Falcons were the second best team.
Finally, trailing 10-0 well into the third period, the Swordsmen couldn’t hold off their visitors any longer.
Seven minutes into the third quarter, Terayon Sweet’s 1-yard run followed by Terrance Fall’s 2-point conversion PAT made it 10-8. Aggressively, the Falcons regained possession with an on-sides kick.
Stud, meanwhile, was the one-word description for Sweet. “That kid,” said Welsh, “is fast.”
Later that period, Sweet’s 13-yarder gave Aquinas the lead. It sure looked as if Falcons’ tight end Sione Lolohea took out two Swordsmen on Sweet’s power run left.
It was total ball-control, Sweet not only scoring all three Falcons’ TDs, but the ball fit into his hands nicely for 28 carries, 202 yards while controlling the clock.
Aquinas’ backbreaking TD took place with some five minutes left.
Sweet escaped Swordsmen defenders to pull off a 41-yard run. Angel Pais’ PAT kick, making the score 21-10, all but assured the San Bernardino-based school its second CIF championship in three seasons.
From the bleachers and, eventually, the sideline, Aquinas’ interior started wearing down the home team.
“Coaches had a good game plan,” said Welsh, noting line play on both offense and defense that favored the Falcons.
“They exploited St. Paul’s weaknesses,” he said. “You could see the fatigue setting in on St. Paul.”
There were seniors, Lolohea, who had a team-high eight tackles, plus Oscar Montenegro, who had six more. Juniors Francisco Mauigoa and Romeo Ross combined for 11 hits.
Aquinas had the lead, 21-10, and possession.
Noted Welsh at the moment: “We have the ball with 5:42 to go.”
It was a sign.
Aquinas had cracked the Swordsmen, which couldn’t keep up with the Falcons’ size, speed and talent.
St. Paul, perking up a bit, scored a late TD. Aquinas, its ground attack firmly in place, worked the clock down to zeroes to claim its title.
Noting Aquinas’ size advantage and “ferocity,” St. Paul got pounded by Sweet and QB Francisco Mauigoa.
Up next was awaiting the State championship brackets, held on Sunday.
San Juan Hills, like Aquinas, disposed of a longtime Catholic school powerhouse, Los Angeles Loyola, in the championship game of its Division 4 by an almost identical score as Aquinas-St. Paul -- 21-15.
Aquinas (12-2) at San Juan Capistrano San Juan Hills (11-3), 7:30 p.m. -- Seven straight years in post-season play, including this year’s CIF Division 4 championship win over Loyola. Third-year coach Robert Frith has the Stallions on a playoff run of victories over Murrieta Mesa, Newhall Hart, Paramount and Loyola after winning the Sea View League.
Stop junior QB Hudson Jones (32 TDs, four interceptions) with WR tandem of Joey Hobert (75 catches, 1,203 yards, 18 TDs) and James Gaines (41-395-7) and then deal with senior RB Austin Hogan (1,519 yards, 19 TDs).
The Hogan-Hogan combination has 46 total TDs.
Senior DT Tyler Wegis (10 sacks) on a defense with 32 QB sacks leads the way with Hobert, Gaines and Henry Vangelos combining on 10 interceptions.
A curious note: San Juan Hills took out Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills, 42-7. Trabuco Hills was the same team that handed San Gorgonio a playoff loss two weeks earlier.
Trabuco Hills lost to Fullerton Sunny Hills in the Division 8 semifinals. Sunny Hills is coached by Peter Karavedas, whose father, Nick, works in Aquinas administration.