Losing the first two football games in Trinity League play doesn’t bode well for a team’s playoff chances.
In the last nine seasons, 16 teams have started 0-2 in the six-team Trinity League and just one–Mater Dei in 2009–advanced to the postseason.
JSerra is familiar with this trend, having lost its first two league games in eight of the previous nine seasons and never rebounding to make the playoffs.
The Lions fell back into that trap again this fall, becoming the only Trinity League team to start 0-2. Those two losses were especially hard to swallow.
They were 35 seconds away from beating Servite in the league opener Oct. 9, but the Friars marched 80 yards in that final stretch, scored on a 22-yard desperate scramble by the quarterback with six seconds on the clock and then made a two-point conversion to steal the 39-38 victory.
A week later, Santa Margarita scored a touchdown with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining and then held on to beat JSerra, 28-21.
Once again, the Lions were staring at the 0-2 mark with league games still remaining against juggernauts Mater Dei and St. John Bosco, whom many consider the two strongest teams this season.
Orange Lutheran was 0-2 a year ago after a very similar set of circumstances: last-second losses to Servite and Santa Margarita. Sure enough, the Lancers finished winless in Trinity League play and were the only member team that didn’t receive an invitation to the Pac-5 playoffs.
In the league opener, the Lancers fell behind by 20 points against Servite before rallying to tie. All that momentum went for naught as Servite converted a field goal with five seconds remaining to win the game.
The following week against Santa Margarita, it was Orange Lutheran that surged ahead by 20 points in the third quarter, but seemed helpless as quarterback K.J. Costello rallied the Eagles back, eventually winning the game, 43-42, on his 6-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds on the clock.
Good thing for the Lions, they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what lies ahead.
They experienced their first dose of success last season, finishing 4-1 in league play with wins against every league foe except three-time defending champion St. John Bosco.
This season, JSerra’s freshman team beat St. John Bosco 35-10 and their junior varsity squad squeaked out a 10-7 victory against the Braves. Those types of results often carry over from year to year, level to level.
And then JSerra players can always look to their coaching staff for a great example of perseverance.
Billy Joe Hobert, the second-year quarterbacks coach for the Lions, led the University of Washington through an undefeated season in 1991, capturing the national championship in what’s considered the best team in school history.
The following year, it all fell apart. Hobert was implicated in a major NCAA scandal that cost him the final two years of eligibility and led to the resignation of head coach Don James.
Hobert didn’t let that derail him, however, spending the next nine years in the NFL.
So while the Lions may not buck the trend and rebound to make the playoffs this season, they’ve certainly laid the groundwork for a bright future.