Jusyis “JoJo” Solis turned heads during a spectacular freshman season for the Aquinas football team.
Solis racked up 2,553 yards from scrimmage and scored 37 total touchdowns in 15 games last season, and his 2,088 rushing yards were the most by a freshman in Inland history.
The breakout season by Solis was among the reasons why Aquinas won the CIF Southern Section Division 7 championship and also claimed a CIF State Division 3AA regional title.
Aquinas JoJo Solis #3 runs for a first down against Newport Harbor in the second half of the CIF State Division 3AA football regional championship game in San Bernardino on Friday, December 3, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Aquinas’ Jusyis Solis is stopped by St. Piux X-St. Matthias’ Dejour Menefee in the CIF-SS Division 7 championship in Downey on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Aquinas won 66-14. (Photo by Scott Varley, Contributing Photographer)
Aquinas running back Jusyis Solis,(#3), carries the ball against Ontario Christian during Friday night’s Ambassador League football game at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino, Ca., October 29, 2021. (Contributing Photographer/John Valenzuela)
Aquinas players lift Jusyis Solis in the air after a first quarter 55-yard touchdown in the CIF-SS Division 7 championship in Downey on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Photo by Scott Varley, Contributing Photographer)
Aquinas coach Jordan Brusig had a good feeling about Solis entering the 2021 season, but it took some time before Solis had the opportunity to showcase his complete set of skills. Solis was banged up during the weeks leading up to the start of the season, and those lingering injuries forced Solis to miss the season opener against Etiwanda.
Solis made his debut the following week against Xavier Prep and had 133 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 carries.
“We finally got to see the dynamic things he can do on the football field,” Brusig said about that first sampling for Solis. “We didn’t want to put too much on his plate right away, but he just kept on getting better week in and week out.”
Solis was a bona fide superstar by the end of the season. He rushed for 279 yards and scored seven touchdowns as the Falcons won a rematch with Xavier Prep in the postseason opener. Solis capped the Division 7 championship run by rushing for 284 yards and scoring six total touchdowns in a 66-14 win over St. Pius X-St. Matthias.
In six postseason games last season, Solis rushed for 1,167 yards and found the end zone 18 times.
“He showed a more patient approach when he had the ball in his hands as the season went along,” Brusig explained. “At the beginning of the season, he just wanted to get the ball and go downhill. He showed a great deal of growth and discipline throughout the season. He waited for those holes to open up and then exploded right through them.”
Aquinas has a long history of great running backs. Glenn Ohaeri, Dozie Amajoyi, Chike Amajoyi and Brandon Rankins are just some of the notable names who have delivered big seasons for the Falcons in recent memory. Brusig played alongside Ohaeri and helped coached the others, and he believes Solis has the chance to join those great players.
“Time will tell, but the opportunity is certainly there,” Brusig said. “A lot of the other guys we’ve talked about didn’t really start until there sophomore or junior years. So for JoJo to have a season like he did as a freshman is pretty special. He’s going to keep getting bigger and stronger. It’s going to be fun to watch him get better over the years.”
In addition to his big rushing numbers, Solis also caught 24 passes or 465 yards last season. Solis will continue to get double-digit carries, but Brusig said he wants to give Solis more opportunities as a receiver this season.
“He is just so dynamic in open space, so we’re going to see what we can do,” Brusig said. “We’re not going to try and reinvent the wheel or anything like that, but we want to take advantage of everything he can do out there.”
The Falcons have another loaded schedule this season, including nonleague games against Etiwanda, Cajon and Upland. Aquinas also has a new adventure ahead this season in the newly-formed Ironwood League. The Falcons will square off against Valley Christian, Village Christian, Heritage Christian, Big Bear and Ontario Christian come league play.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to play great teams and maybe begin some new rivalries,” Bruisg said.
10 MORE RUNNING BACKS TO WATCH THIS SEASON
Beau Bruins, Ramona: Had a breakout junior season with 2,072 rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns.
Jayson Cortes, Centennial: Tough, physical runner tallied 986 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior.
Antoine Fowler, Rialto: Ran for 1,721 yards and averaged 13.7 yards per carry in his junior season.
Zach Gross, Rim of the World: Finished his junior campaign with 2,311 yards and 36 total touchdowns.
Brandon Lopez, Patriot: Averaged 26.6 carries and 139.1 yards per game during his junior campaign.
Desean Norwood, Lakeside: Led the Lancers with 1,331 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior.
Devyne Pearson, Chaparral: Rushed for 704 yards and seven touchdowns in a backup role as a junior.
Dylan Riley, Rancho Verde: The junior has 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns over 10 career games.
Kamron Taylor, Jurupa Hills: Senior running back has more than a dozen Division I college offers.
Kiyel Tyler, Kaiser: Led the Cats in rushing yards (1,034) and tackles (73) during his junior season.