Any doubts about whether the La Habra High School football program belonged in Division 2 were quickly put to rest last Friday.
The Highlanders, who got bumped all the way up to the second-highest division in the CIF Southern Section, knocked off No. 3 seed Oaks Christian with a 35-28 win. And now there’s no telling how far they might go.
“I’m not sure there’s a guy around who said ‘I had La Habra to beat Oaks Christian,'” Highlanders head coach Frank Mazzotta said. “I’m certainly not shocked, only because I’m with the kids everyday and I’ve seen us improve daily. Good teams gets better and don’t let losses define them.”
This didn’t look like the best season for La Habra to negotiate such a massive jump in divisions. Sure, the Highlanders won the Southwest Division last season and Mazzotta has won seven CIF championships, all since 2002. But there was plenty of talent to replace from last year’s team and La Habra looked pretty ordinary, on paper, entering last Friday’s game with a 6-4 record and second-place finish in the Freeway League.
Conversely, Oaks Christian was considered one of the division’s favorites and was moving down in divisions compared to recent seasons. The Lions had scored 60 points or more in five games this season. Didn’t matter, La Habra left town with an upset win that caused one local radio/TV personality to question Oaks Christian’s heart and coaching on social media.
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“I definitely thought we were the underdogs going into last Friday’s game,” Mazzotta said. “Our division is really tough, we’ve got a lot of great teams, but I think we’ll be the underdogs in most games.
“It’s one game in the division. I don’t know if it validates anything yet. Being in this division, I thought that validates things enough. For all the kids, it was definitely validation to go back and say we are getting better.”
Now, the Highlanders have a good shot to make the semifinals. It won’t be easy with Redlands East Valley coming to town on Friday in what looks like a total toss-up game. Redlands East Valley is 9-2 and won the Citrus Belt League this season.