Notebook: Damien’s Ben D’Aquila ready for Navy challenge

Damien senior Ben D’Aquila was surprised after the past football season when the Navy approached him about coming east.

“They said they might have a place, but they wouldn’t know until the end of the year,” said D’Aquila. “Then they said they would come out and talk about the situation, and a week or two later they offered me.”

D’Aquila will report to the Navy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island in late July. He plays for the preparatory school team against the community teams of the high-level community college and the service academy, then heads to Annapolis. After two years with Annapolis, he will make a final decision to join the U.S. Navy for five years as an officer.

Damien senior Ben D’Aquila last season averaged 45.3 yards on his punts. He goes to Navy preparation school in July and then attends the Naval Academy. (Photo courtesy of Damien High football)

It’s all part of an American success story. Ben’s grandfather, also named Ben, moved from Queens to Southern California with his wife and four children in 1968, eventually helping to start Old World Delicatessen in Covina and Upland, which is now a family business.

Younger Ben is a 6-foot-3,180-pound punt who averaged 45.3 yards on his punts last season. He can also make placekick by making 5 of the 7 field goal attempts and 28 of the 30 PATs, although Navy has recruited him as a gambler.

A product of the Chris Sailer Kicking Camp, D’Aquila made the winning PAT for the West in extra innings in the January Inland Empire Hall of Fame Classic all-star game against the East at Kaiser High.

“I was hesitant at first,” the senior from Damien said about choosing the Navy, “but then I sat down and took it all in and started getting excited. It will be a challenge, but I like challenges. I’d love to make the Navy Hall of Fame and have one of their best punter averages of all time and maybe make it to the NFL. But I also want to become a lawyer, so I will probably join their JAG corps. ”

The Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) is the Navy’s Legal Department.

D’Aquila’s parents, Joseph and Maria, and his older sister Francesca are enthusiastic about the development.

“I feel good about it,” said Maria. “I had some reservations at first, but I think it’s a great opportunity and an honor for them to consider it.”


John Stewart was approved as the Big Bear football coach by the school district board last week.

Stewart, 42, is looking forward to the challenge of leading the Bears, who went 5-6 in the general classification last season.

“I love Big Bear and the kids up there and have never had a bad experience in the 10 or 11 years I know (athletic director) Dave Griffiths,” Stewart said. “They’ve been winning steadily for about 15 years and they do things the right way. They are disciplined and hard-working, and they may not always have the best talent, but they are always in games and it’s a community that supports the football program . ”

Stewart is originally from Tacoma, Washington, but recently coached in San Bernardino County. He spent six years in Silver Valley, one in Victor Valley and the 2019 season in Yucca Valley. Stewart led Yucca Valley to a 7-4 overall record, the first league title in over 20 years and the first Bell Game win against rival Twentynine Palms in 15 years.

“I appreciated my time as head coach of the Trojans and working with the administration and coaching staff and the kids and boosters, but I think this is the best move for me and my family to move forward,” said Stewart.

Stewart said he plans to launch the same Navy option attack that Big Bear used under Griffiths, who retired as a coach after last season.

Yucca Valley is now looking for a football coach.


The Southwestern League will host a virtual football showcase on Wednesday, May 13 with Vista Murrieta, Great Oak, Murrieta Valley, Murrieta Mesa, Temecula Valley and Chaparral.

Chaparral coach Andrew Ramer came up with the idea for the virtual event. He wanted to find a way to showcase the best college league players during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Southwestern League is very competitive and every coach is fighting to bring their program to the top,” said Murrela Mesa coach Darrel Turner. “But more than the gains and losses, we all care about our student athletes and will work together to give as many Temecula / Murrieta football players as possible the opportunity to play college football and hopefully get their education partially or fully paid.”

Vista Murrieta coach Eric Peterson loves the idea.

“We take the showcase concept and send videos about our children to college coaches through the tagging system on Twitter,” said Peterson. “It is an update of what the coaches would have done visually during the recruitment in the spring.”

College coaches can follow the schools’ Twitter football accounts – @vmhsfootball, @ Ramsfootball951, @MVNighthawkFB, @tvhsbearsfb, @GOHS_WolfpackFB and @chaparralpumafb – and use the hashtag # SWL2020.

John Murphy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @PrepCat