Josh Henderson took over the Aquinas program as an ambitious 25-year old. When he left this spring, he had led the Falcons to two CIF titles, several Christian League titles and had established Aquinas as arguably one of the most consistent forces in the county since Henderson’s alma mater – Fontana High School – was in the middle of its run under legendary coach Dick Bruich.
Henderson is now at Los Angeles Baptist and Aquinas is going back to the 25-year old Fohi well, as assistant coach Nick Matheny assumed the reigns shortly after Henderson left. And with a Falcon team that has won two Christian League titles at his disposal, expectations are high.
The expectations of Aquinas come from the elite talent that returns, especially for a team at the small-school level. While the Falcons lose star quarterback Tyler Stirewalt, they are hardly lacking in skill-position talent, as seniors Jim Jones and Derrick Radden return.
Jones, the leading receiver in the county last season with 64 receptions for 1,307 yards and 15 touchdowns, will take over for Stirewalt at quarterback in an attempt to maximize his contribution to the offense. Between his dual-threat ability and the running of Radden, who ran for nearly 600 yards as a junior, the Falcons should be potent on offense again.
Defensively, Aquinas also has two stars coming back in defensive lineman Uche Amajoyi and linebacker Jake Henderson. Amajoyi, the younger brother of former Falcon standout and current Stanford linebacker Chike Amajoyi, is already receiving offers from Division I schools, as Arizona and UTEP have offered. Henderson, the younger brother of the former coach, was a tackling machine last year, grabbing first-team all-CIF and all-County honors as a junior.
So the biggest question for the Falcons might not be if they can win a third-straight Christian League title – with everyone besides Arrowhead Christian having a new head coach and less talent, they should be OK in that regard – but how far they can advance in the playoffs. Last year’s nemesis was Twentynine Palms, which handed the Falcons both their losses, including a 40-0 beating in the East Valley quarterfinals. An Oct. 9 rematch could tell a lot.
Aquinas’ schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)
Sept. 12 – vs. Big Bear (Big Bear Middle School)
Sept. 18 – vs. Riverside Notre Dame (Riverside CC)
Sept. 25 – CITRUS VALLEY
Oct. 2 – SAN PEDRO MARY STAR OF THE SEA
Oct. 9 – at Twentynine Palms
Oct. 16 – OAK HILLS
Oct. 23 – vs. La Verne Lutheran (Bonita HS)*
Oct. 30 – at Arrowhead Christian*
Nov. 6 – WESTERN CHRISTIAN*
Nov. 13 – ONTARIO CHRISTIAN*