The traditional rivalry for Christian League supremacy much of this decade was Aquinas and Ontario Christian, as the teams split titles the last eight years. And even though both teams are moving to the Christian League, that rivalry should be just as intense.
The Falcons have won the last three meetings, therefore winning the last three league titles. Last year, Aquinas went 7-4 behind an elite cast of players that included QB/WR Jim Jones, who signed with UTEP, RB Derrick Radden, LB Jake Henderson and DL Uche Amajoyi. Those four players depart, but the Falcons are expected to be as tough as ever.
Nick Matheny returns for his second year at coach with a team that should be stout up front and has talented, albeit young, players filling in at the skill positions.
Leading those skill-position players are freshman quarterback Raymond Padilla and senior Shaquille Gilbert. Padilla (6-0, 160) has excelled during fall camp, allowing the rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound Gilbert to move from quarterback to his more natural positions of wide receiver and defensive back.
“(Padilla) is a good-size kid with a strong arm, and he’s going to make some freshman mistakes but we expect that,” Matheny said. “He doesn’t have that superstar mentality that ‘Yeah, I’m a freshman starting quarterback.’ He’s got a very positive attitude and he’s here to learn.”
The Falcons return three starters on the offensive line in seniors Zack Williams (5-11, 187), Joshua McPeck (6-1, 204) and Roberto Martinez (6-2, 198). Along with tight ends Mikael Valdez (6-1, 166) and Joe Panelli (6-0, 164), Aquinas should have plenty of blockers for its Padilla and running back Matthew Hernandez (5-8, 162).
As is custom at Aquinas, virtually everyone will be playing on both sides of the ball. Martinez, Panelli and junior Frank Klementich (5-5, 148) will be on the DL, with Williams, McPeck and Valdez at linebacker and Gilbert and Hernandez in the defensive backfield.
Aquinas 2010 schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 3 – at Desert Hot Springs
Sept. 10 – TWENTYNINE PALMS
Sept. 17 – at San Pedro Mary Star of the Sea (Daniels Field)
Sept. 24 – at Shadow Hills
Oct. 1 – RIVERSIDE NOTRE DAME
Oct. 15 – at Ontario Christian*
Oct. 22 – at Calvary Murrieta* (Vista Murrieta HS)
Oct. 29 – LINFIELD CHRISTIAN*
Nov. 5 – ARROWHEAD CHRISTIAN*
Nov. 12 – at Western Christian
– Clay Fowler contributed to this report