The Southern Section football playoffs are set to begin this weekend and, once again, the Trinity League figures to be well represented in the Pac-5 Division.
And deservedly so.
The six-team league consisting of Mater Dei, Servite, Santa Margarita, JSerra, Orange Lutheran and St. John Bosco has been nearly unstoppable against teams from outside the Trinity League this season, posting a combined record of 25-5 during nonleague play.
Three of those losses came against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which entered last week ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, and another came against De La Salle of Concord, Calif., ranked No. 3 by the same publication.
Neither of those teams competes in the Southern Section, however.
The only team from the section to defeat a Trinity League team in nonleague play this fall was Inland Empire power Corona Centennial, which edged Orange Lutheran by three points back in September, a week after the Huskies lost by 20 to Mater Dei in the season opener. Orange Lutheran went into the final week of Trinity League play as the only team with an 0-4 record.
Centennial figures to run into another Trinity League team in the playoffs, as the Huskies are members of the Big VIII, a six-team league that features most of the top football programs in the Inland Empire. The Big VIII is one of five leagues that will comprise the Pac-5 playoff bracket, joining the Trinity, Moore, Marmonte and Mission leagues.
Getting past the first round would be a major accomplishment for any team outside the Trinity League. Reaching the semifinals would seem nearly impossible.
Not only have the Trinity League teams proven to be formidable in the postseason, winning three of the last four Pac-5 titles, but the group also should benefit from strength in numbers.
Once the top three teams from the Trinity, Big VIII, Moore and Mission leagues, and the top two from the four-member Mission League, receive their automatic berths, two additional at-large teams will be needed to fill out the 16-team bracket. Those two teams figure to come from the Trinity League, putting five of the Trinity’s six teams in the bracket.
St. John Bosco enters the playoffs as the favorite to win a second straight Pac-5 title. The Braves, who went 15-0 last season en route to capturing the Pac-5 title and Division I State Bowl Championship, locked up first place in the Trinity League with a 49-26 win against Servite on Halloween night. St. John Bosco’s only loss this season came by three points against Bishop Gorman on Sept. 26.
Mater Dei came within a field goal of beating St. John Bosco in their Trinity League opener on Oct. 10 and suffered a 17-10 loss to JSerra later that month. The Monarchs ran the table during nonleague play, however, posting the impressive wins against Corona Centennial, followed by victories against Villa Park, Upland, Edison and Westlake.
JSerra has been the biggest surprise among the Trinity League teams. The Lions also went 5-0 in nonleague play with impressive wins against St. Bonaventure and Chino Hills, and their seven-point wins against Mater Dei and Santa Margarita were sandwiched around a five-point loss to St. John Bosco.
Santa Margarita and Servite, each of whom won a Pac-5 title in the last four years, can’t be overlooked either.