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High School Football: HB run, a family affair

Huntington Beach has gained inspiration from emotional pregame locker room visits from family to reach title game.

December 04, 2013|By Mike Sciacca
(KEVIN CHANG / HB…)

The turnaround started late, very late, in the season. If you were to look at what was to bind the Huntington Beach Oilers together and send them on to what has been both an improbable and incredible postseason ride, you would find it in family ties.

Huntington's unstoppable run over the past month has catapulted the Oilers to where all teams hope the season ends: in a CIF Southern Section football championship game. They will get the chance to win their first section title when they face Sunset League rival Newport Harbor in the Southwest Division final.

The Oilers, the home team for the game, and Sailors kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Angel Stadium.

Both teams enter the game with 8-5 records.

"It's unreal to think that we will be playing for a CIF championship," Huntington junior defensive lineman Hojun Lee said after his sack on the final play of last Friday's semifinal game sealed a 28-21 victory over No. 3-seeded and defending division champion Edison at Orange Coast College. "I'm so proud of my team and coaches. It's a great feeling."

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Huntington's late-season surge started with a key game against Newport Harbor, and the Oilers will end their season Saturday against the Sailors.

Before that first meeting between the teams on Nov. 8 at Huntington, Oilers Coach Eric Lo did something that would, unbeknownst to him, alter the course of the season for his team.

"It was Senior Night, and I invited the fathers of our senior players into the locker room," he said. "I really think we have a great group of seniors, and I wanted to do something special. We went out and played a real good game that night against Newport.

"Since that game, we have invited families into the locker room before our games. Parents, siblings, grandparents, people have supported our program. It's really been powerful and fantastic, this love for each other that has been on display. It has really united this team."

The first pregame locker room visit served as inspiration to Huntington, which went on to defeat Newport Harbor, 40-14, on Senior Night. That win allowed the Oilers the chance to be considered for an at-large berth to the playoffs, which they received. Since landing that bid, they've gone out and took their playoff opportunity by storm.

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