It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s semifinal weekend throughout the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
There are the St. John Bosco’s of the world, who were expected to reach this point. But there also also a few teams who weren’t expected to be playing this time of year. Here are some of the biggest surprises among the teams who will be practicing on Thanksgiving Day.
Bishop Amat (9-3) — Yes, the Lancers were Tri-Champs in the Mission League. Friday, Amat will travel to Corona Centennial for a semifinal matchup. To get to this point, the Lancers had to defeat JSerra on the road in the quarterfinals. You could make the argument the Lions were the best team not named Bosco in the Southern Section. To add to the magical run the Lancers are on right now, the team is doing it with a backup quarterback — Ryder Ruiz, the younger brother of Rio, who played football and baseball at Amat and is now in the Houston Astros organization.
Great Oak (10-2) — Chino Hills was everyone’s darling. The Huskies finished behind Upland in the Baseline League. Their regular season included wins over Hart, which turned heads to start the beginning of the 2014 season, and Bishop Amat — the Tri-Champs in the Mission League. Chino Hills was awarded the No. 3 seed in the division, and Great Oak knocked them out in the first round. In the second round, the Wolfpack held El Toro to 24 points. It was just the fourth time all season the Chargers were held under 25 points. Great Oak travels to South Coast League champ Mission Viejo on Friday.
Trabuco Hills (8-4) — The Mustangs were 6-4 heading into the playoffs but kicked it up a notch last week ending Corona del Mar’s string of three consecutive sectional championships. Before last week, the Sea Kings only other loss this season was at Tesoro and, up until that point, they held the state’s longest winning streak. The reign is over now thanks to the Mustangs.
Salesian (6-6) — Sure, the Mustangs won the Northeast Division title last year, but the 2014 season presented a move up for Salesian and bigger boy football. In the Angelus League, they didn’t fare too well, going 2-3 and finishing behind St. Francis, Cathedral and Harvard Westlake. Despite the 4-6 regular season, Salesian received the only at-large berth in the division and proceeded to defeat No. 2 seed La Mirada. In the quarters, they took down Burbank and now a semifinal visit to Downey awaits.
Simi Valley (8-4) — The Pioneers went 6-4 in the regular season but ran the table in the Canyon League. Last week, they did something no team had been able to do all season — defeat El Segundo and slow down talented quarterback Lars Nootbaar. The Eagles entered the game 11-0 and were CIF runner-up a season prior, but Simi Valley ended any hopes of a return trip to the finals.