REDLANDS – Heavy favorites coming in, the Aquinas High football team didn’t play like it at the outset of an eventual 55-0 victory against Arrowhead Christian Academy (ACA).
The Ambassador League opener was played Saturday, Oct. 2, at Redlands High.
The Falcons (3-3, 1-0) sputtered and committed penalties, and didn’t even make a first down on their first possession. Gutsy ACA even stuffed Aquinas on a fourth-and-one at the Eagle 25 following an interception by the Falcons’ Marco Perez.
“We didn’t have enough energy,” said Aquinas standout freshman running back JoJo Solis. “We weren’t firing on all cylinders at the start and we needed to pick it up.”
Aquinas drove for scores on its next two possessions, ending with a 3-yard Solis scoring run on the first and a 5-yard Solis TD run on the second. The Falcons led 14-0 and were not going to be caught.
Solis rushed 15 times for 180 yards and four TDs to lead the ground game. Senior quarterback Dre Robles completed 9 of 16 passes for 213 yards and three scores to lead the passing attack.
On Aquinas’ next possession, Robles completed a 35-yard pass to Solis to move the Falcons to the ACA 5. Two penalties moved the Falcons back but Robles eventually connected on fourth down for a 5-yard TD pass to Vander Bradley.
A 34-yard Robles to Cesar Fernandez TD pass put Aquinas up 28-0 at the half.
“At halftime our coaches talked to us and locked us in, and then we just picked it up,” said Solis, who travels to Aquinas each day from Adelanto.
“We were playing slow,” Aquinas coach Jordan Brusig said. “We’re getting holding penalties because we’re not moving our feet. We needed to come out and fly off the ball.”
That’s what the Falcons did to start the second half as Solis took a handoff from Robles on Aquinas’ first play and sprinted 64 yards down the left sideline to make it 35-0.
“The holes were pretty big,” Solis said. “I credit my offensive line and my fullback, Marco Perez.”
It was a disappointing outcome for ACA which came in 32-point underdogs (according to calpreps.com) but gave Aquinas a fight at the start.
“We came out swinging, but they’re just a well-coached team and we didn’t execute the way we needed to and missed too many tackles,” said ACA wide receiver/defensive back Luke Anderson.
Aquinas had three scores called back due to penalties in the first half, but none in the second half.
A 2-yard Perez TD run by Solis made it 42-0 with 2:50 left in the third quarter. There was a running clock for much of the second half, but Aquinas added two more scores – on a 13-yard pass to Perez and on a 20-yard run by Solis.
ACA (3-3, 0-1) couldn’t run against Aquinas’ big front. Eagles senior quarterback Jace Woods gave it a spirited try, but completed just 6 of 18 passing attempts for 46 yards.
There were some cool moments. Woods was embraced by numerous Falcons after the game. Also, the teams huddled together at midfield for a post-game prayer – as Aquinas and Notre Dame of Riverside did the week before following a 53-0 Aquinas victory.
An Aquinas team that now has 34 players welcomed two-way lineman Connor Waymire and tight end Zachary Mendieta to the lineup. The transfers from Redlands East Valley High had to sit out the first five games due section transfer rules.
“It felt good,” Waymire said. “I’ve been practicing all this time and it’s really something else. The coach says you reap what you sow, and I feel like I’ve been sowing a bunch of good seeds and now it’s time to reap them.”
Next up for Aquinas is Long Beach Poly at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8 – homecoming for the Falcons.
“The Holy War [rivalry game against Notre Dame] was a great atmosphere and we had a lot of fun,” Brusig said. “Homecoming will be like that and then we have Damien after that so we have two big home games in a row.”
The Eagles are at Ontario Christian at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8.