|Heritage High football coach Kraig Broach holds up three fingers in celebration of the team's third consecutive league title.|
"It's a fun night," the Heritage High School football coach said Friday night, moments after his players dumped a bucket of water on him. "We'll enjoy it tonight -- then we'll get ready for the second season."
The second season is the CIF Southern Section playoffs, which the Patriots will open with a home game next Friday. They earned that right with a 37-20 victory over Elsinore in a battle of Sunbelt League co-leaders.
Before an enthusiatic home crowd celebrating Senior Night, the Patriots led virtually from start to finish, improving their overall record to 9-1 (5-0 in league). Junior running back Limihai Hifo ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns, while Logan Netter kicked three field goals in a winning effort.
All this was a welcome sight for the Patriots, who haven't had top running back Jamal Morrow at full strength for two weeks. Morrow suffered a strained knee in an Oct. 19 game against Paloma Valley and was used sparingly Friday night.
"It was nice to see Hifo and Takitaki get some big runs," Broach said. "Morrow could've played more, but it was obvious he still is bothered by the injury. Limiahi has been chomping at the bit to get back in there, and he did a great job."
Hifo suffered a broken bone in his foot Sept. 14 against Great Oak and has been sidelined for six weeks. But when Morrow had trouble maneuvering on the injured knee Friday night, Hifo was more than ready to take over the load.
"I just need to work on my stamina," Hifo said. "I'm kind of out of shape. But my foot feels really good. With the playoffs coming up, I'm ready to go.
"Other teams are gonna be more worried about us now that we have two threats with me and Jamal, plus my cousin running the ball well, too."
The Patriots will learn the identity of their first-round playoff opponent Sunday morning, when playoff brackets are announced by the CIF-SS office. The way they performed both on offense and defense in this one, the players are ready for anyone they're matched up with.
In addition to the potent offensive attack, the defense created two big turnovers. Linebacker Brandon Howard recovered a fumbled Elsinore kickoff return in the second quarter, leading to a four-play drive resulting in a 19-yard TD run by Hifo. Early in the third quarter, Jordan Netter intercepted a pass from Elsinore QB Tommy Wilson.