In the CIF-SS Inland Division playoff bracket, the tier of teams behind No. 1 seed Vista Murrieta and No. 2 seed Corona Centennial isn’t separated by much. This game is proof seeing as both Chino Hills (7-2-1) and Redlands (7-3) were one league victory from earning the top playoff seeds in the Sierra and Citrus Belt Leagues, respectively.
Nearly No. 1: After a league-opening 41-13 loss to Inland Division No. 4 seed Covina Charter Oak, Chino Hills finished second in the Sierra League. Had Redlands not lost the regular season finale, 14-7, to Eisenhower, the Terriers would have been the league’s top seed instead of its No. 3 seed.
Chip on his shoulder: Redlands running back Craig Lee is this game’s headliner. The senior committed to UCLA is averaging 155.8 yards per game on the ground but that number doesn’t encapsulate the back’s electrifying style.
An ideal combination of speed, power and elusiveness, at 6-feet, 190 pounds Lee has 1,402 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing the season’s penultimate game.
This game’s major point of interest is the shoulder injury that caused Lee’s absence from Redlands’ 28-24 loss to Yucaipa Oct. 26 and kept him on the sidelines for some of his 12-carry, 20-yard performance in last week’s 14-7 loss to Eisenhower. He was clearly not 100 percent last week and the state of his shoulder could be something on which tonight’s game hinges.
Regardless, Chino Hills is not taking him lightly.
“He’s the best running back we’ve seen and I feel like we’ve seen some good ones,” Chino Hills coach Derek Bub said. “But their passing game is vastly underrated. When they have to throw it, they can throw it well.”
Rarefied air: Chino Hills knows a little something about the passing game itself. The Huskies’ roster includes the Inland Valley’s leading passer and two of the valley’s three leading receivers.
Quarterback Matt Simko has 27 touchdowns opposite five interceptions and is averaging 270 yards per game. Boise State-bound receiver Jack Austin has 972 yards on 62 receptions and Joseph Lara 768 yards and a 16.3-yard average per catch.
“We’ve got our hands full with a Chino Hills team that’s been scoring a lot of points,” Redlands coach Jim Walker said. “Those guys are putting up 50 a game.”