‘Nothing but smiles all across our faces’ — football teams enjoy Southern Section championship luncheon

LONG BEACH — Free food will make any high school football player happy. While the athletes certainly enjoyed their servings of salad, chicken, beef and churros on Monday at the Southern Section Championship luncheon in Long Beach, knowing that their teams will be competing for sectional titles this weekend brought out ear-to-ear grins.

“It’s a great feeling to be back here,” Sierra Canyon linebacker JD Hernandez said between bites of his lunch. “This is what we dream about playing high school football. It’s a big accomplishment for us as a team and as a program. Nothing but smiles all across our faces.”

Hernandez and his fellow Sierra Canyon teammates and coaches were at the luncheon last year before their Division 3 championship showdown against Cajon. The Trailblazers won that game 34-30. Sierra Canyon plays Chaminade in the Division 2 championship on Friday.

Loyola hasn’t had representatives at the luncheon since 2005. This season, the Cubs will play for the Division 4 title against San Juan Hills.

“It’s great seeing all of these other teams that are in this position and to be back here,” Loyola head coach Drew Casani said. “I was here 29 years ago sitting at one of these tables. It brings back a lot of memories that these guys will now have about the excitement of this week and the culmination of their high school careers, because my [representatives] are all seniors.”

Led by Casani, a linebacker, Loyola beats Quartz Hill to win the Division 1 Southern Section championship 24-14 in 1990. Casani played in the game with a broken leg.

“It only slowed me a down a little,” he said Monday.

Fox Sports broadcaster Chris Rix was the keynote speaker at the luncheon. He gave a powerful talk on the importance of getting back up after being dealt a tough blow, whether on the football field or in life.

The Southern Section championship football dates and times are below:

Friday (Nov. 29)

Division 2: No. 1 Sierra Canyon (12-1) at Chaminade (7-5), 7:30 p.m.

Division 3: No. 2 Grace Brethren (12-1) vs. No. 1 Corona del Mar (13-0) at Newport Harbor, 7:30 p.m.

Division 5: Aquinas (11-2) at St. Paul (12-1), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 7: No. 3 Temecula Valley (11-2) at No. 4 Cypress (13-0), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 10: No. 1 Crescenta Valley (13-0) at Simi Valley (10-3), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 11: No. 4 Muir (11-2) at No. 2 Marina (11-2), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 14: No. 1 St. Pius X-St. Matthias (12-0) at South Torrance (9-4), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Saturday (Nov. 30)

Division 1: No. 1 Mater Dei (12-0) vs. No. 2 St. John Bosco (11-1) at Cerritos College, 7:30 p.m.

Division 4: No. 4 San Juan Hills (10-3) at Loyola (6-6), 7 or 7:30 p.m. – SITE COULD CHANGE

Division 6: No. 4 Oxnard Pacifica (12-1) at No. 3 La Serna (13-0), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 8: No. 1 Sunny Hills (11-2) at No. 2 Santa Barbara (11-2), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 9: North Torrance (11-2) at Highland (10-3), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Division 13: Esperanza (9-4) at #4 Ramona (11-2), 7 or 7:30 p.m.

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