Prep Preview: Aquinas at Notre Dame

I’m covering the San Bernardino Aquinas-Riverside Notre Dame CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division semifinal playoff game tonight, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, for The Press-Enterprise, pe.com & @PEcom_preps.

The best part of this assignment is it’s name: The Holy War.

AquinasLOGOTHE LOW DOWN:
The Falcons (8-4 overall, 3-2 Ambassador) lost to Notre Dame, 28-7, in Week 10 to back into the playoffs but has otherwise won five their last six games. In a season of change, for former Falcon-turned-coach Jordan Brusig to get this far in his first season — with only 30 players on his roster — is a remarkable achievement. Sophomore RB Branden Rankins averaged more than nine yards per carry and has bulled his way to 14 TDs and more than 1,300 yards this season. Senior QB/FB/DE Courtland Boucher has turned out to be a jack-of-all-trades, leading the team in passing TDs (6) while placing second on the team with 344 rushing yards.

NotreDameLOGOThe Titans (12-0 overall, 5-0 Ambassador) are having their best season since a guy named Kenjon Barner was running wild as a national-recognized recruit. Coach Derrick Johnson has this team on the precipice of something even Barner did not accomplish — a section finals appearance. Junior QB Niles Harrell leads the offense, passing for 26 TDs and more than 1,800 yards, while it’s been running-back-by-committee with five runners combining to account for more than 1,600 the teams more than 2,100 rushing yards. Defensively, the a strong crop of LBs and DBs have held opponents to less than eight points per game.

THE KEY PLAYERS:
Aquinas
— QB Ryan Wellock (Soph., 5-foot-11, 186 pounds); RB Branden Rankins (Soph., 5-10, 195); RB/CB Johnny Padilla (Sr., 5-6, 160); FB/DE Courtland Boucher (Sr., 5-11, 195); RB/MLB Andrew Kellstrom (Fr., 5-7, 145); MLB/G Niklas Gustav (Sr., 6-2, 235); T/DE Niko Hernandez (Sr., 6-1, 225); FS/HB Miguel Flores (Sr., 5-10, 180); DT/FB Uche Ohaeri (Sr., 6-foot, 235); LB/RB Marcus Padilla (Soph., 5-7, 160); K/P Randolph Munox (Sr., 5-10, 162).

Notre Dame — QB Niles Harrell (Jr., 6-foot-1, 195 pounds); RB Christian Gurrola (Sr., 5-8, 180); WR/DB Ian Zamudio (Sr., 5-9, 155); WR/DB Wesley Smith (Sr., 6-foot, 178); WR/DB Noel Leon (Sr., 5-6, 165); TE/LB Ryan Simpson (Sr., 6-foot, 215); ATH Manny Guerrero (Sr., 5-10, 175); OLB/TE Jaden Gardner (Sr., 6-foot, 215); TE/ILB Lawrence Mai (Sr., 6-foot, 210); OLB/SS Victor Gama (Sr., 5-8, 195); K Jun Hwang (Fr., 5-8, 210).

THE DIFFERENCE:
Notre Dame’s athleticism, depth and experience should carry the Titans over the Falcons for the second time in a month.

THE FINAL SOCRE:
Notre Dame 35, Aquinas 20

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