Not that these teams needed the added motivation, but the winner has been a league champion the past 10 consecutive years. That could be the case again when defending Ambassador League champion Ontario Christian (7-0, 2-0) hosts Aquinas (5-2, 2-0).
Trending: Each of these teams have won five league championships since 2002, but Aquinas won four in a row before Ontario Christian claimed the title last year. The Knights are hoping last season began a new trend and have reason to believe so, given their performance to date.
In fact, Ontario Christian enters tonight as the top-rankedteam in the CIF-SS East Valley Division, which could mean this game has championship implications outside of this league.
“This is always a big game, but it makes it even bigger that they’re No. 1,” Aquinas coach Chris Ybarra said. “It’s good for our league that they’re No. 1, and it’s good for us that we can say we’re playing the No. 1 team.”
Triple threat: Ontario Christian prefers the ground game, but the Knights have proven capable of beating teams in a number of ways. Running back T.J. Spykstra is averaging 147 yards per game and already has scored 10 touchdowns.
Ontario Christian is perfectly capable of turning to quarterback Craig Bruinsma, who has just 883 yards but has completed 61 percent of his 84 passes with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. It doesn’t hurt that he has a 6-foot-5 receiver in Christian Dirksen to throw to.
“To be honest, we’re about as 50-50 as we can be,” Ontario Christian coach Chris Stevens said. “T.J. has been doing a great job of delivering the mail and we feel like we can throw the ball over the top, too.”
Running Romero: Aquinas prefers to lean on running back Romero Flores, who has amassed 1,247 yards, is averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has scored 13 touchdowns. The senior twice has gained at least 250 yards and has 145 or more in six of seven games.
If an Ontario Christian defense allowing just 12.5 points per game is to succeed tonight, it will need to contain Flores.
“Our whole game plan is built around stopping Romero Flores,” Stevens said. “It’s a little bit pick your poison, but we would rather try and make them throw the ball more.”
Rivalry lives on: When the Ambassador League was formed in 2010, there was some new blood added to the mix, including a Linfield Christian team coming off a CIF championship.
But that hasn’t dampened this rivalry one bit.
“This is a big game in our league,” Ybarra said. “We’re hoping to play them a good game.”
To call it a big game doesn’t do it justice, according to Stevens.
“I can’t even state it,” Stevens said. “It’s one of the best rivalries in the Inland Empire. It’s got a rich tradition and for the last decade it’s decided championships.”