The winner of Ontario Christian and Aquinas’ annual meeting has produced a league champion the last 10 years. After Friday night, Ontario Christian hopes it will be 11.
The Knights raced out to a 13-point lead and held on for a 27-20 win over Aquinas to remain undefeated on the season and move into sole possession of first place in the Ambassador League with two games to play.
Considering their No. 1 ranking in the CIF-SS East Valley Division, Ontario Christian (8-0, 3-0) may have more than one championship in its future this season.
“I’m not so sure about the No. 1 in our division after tonight, but we are worthy of the 8-0,” Ontario Christian coach Chris Stevens said. “We have a long way to go still with two games in league and the postseason and we’ve got a lot to work on. So we can’t be happy with that, we can’t be satisfied with that and especially we’ve got to stop looking at those rankings.”
It was 6-foot-5 receiver Christian Dirksen who staked Ontario Christian to a 20-7 lead with two first-quarter touchdowns and two field goals, but the game finished as a duel between the teams’ star running backs.
Ontario Christian’s T.J. Spykstra finished with 159 yards on 13 carries and broke three runs of 40-plus yards, including a 58-yard scamper that set up the Knights’ final touchdown. Derek Van Leeuwen’s 2-yard run with 7:30 remaining in the game was Ontario Christian’s first touchdown since the first quarter and gave the Knights a 27-13 lead.
Aquinas running back Romero Flores, who finished with 260 yards on 43 carries, aided the Falcons (5-3, 3-1) on their final touchdown drive that made it a seven-point game with 3:18 to play. Aquinas regained possession at its own 15-yard line with 1:16 to play but couldn’t muster a final push.
“I’m proud of my guys. Nobody expected us to play like that,” Aquinas coach Chris Ybarra said. “That’s the No. 1 team in the division. You take away a few big plays and our defense played pretty well.”
After Dirksen had four receptions for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first two quarters, some press coverage by a linebacker helped limit the Ontario Christian receiver to two catches for 9 yards the rest of the game.
But it was Spykstra, who entered the game averaging 147 rushing yards per game, who picked up the slack. The senior was pushed out at the 2-yard line after a 48-yard run, but a holding penalty relegated the Knights to a field goal and a 20-7 lead with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Flores responded with his second touchdown, a 24-yard run that pulled Aquinas within a touchdown at the 10:37 mark of the fourth quarter but the senior could pull the Falcons no closer.
“We knew he was going to get that ball and we knew we had to stop him,” Stevens said. “Our guys bent but they didn’t break.”
Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer
Ontario Christian running back T.J. Spykstra (above) had 159 yards on 13 carries in the Knights’ 27-20 win over Aquinas.