For Cocoa High, it has become customary. For Viera, it is at least familiar. For Melbourne Central Catholic, this will be a new experience.
All three high school football teams will play on the day after Thanksgiving this year, three weeks deep into the playoffs.
Cocoa is completing a decade of winning regional titles. With a 36-30 win over Orlando Jones on Friday, the Tigers advanced to the state semifinal round for the 10th year in a row. That goes back to 2007, when the upstart program battled with powerful Naples in Cocoa Stadium with a spot on the state championship game on the line.
The Tigers lost before an overflow crowd that night, 28-21, but they won it all the next three seasons before running into another rolling program in 2011. Cocoa traveled to Miami for a 4A semifinal and fell in overtime to Booker T. Washington, 20-14.
That was the first of five consecutive years for the Tornadoes to eliminate the Tigers in the postseason. The closest of the five games came at Cocoa Stadium in 2014, when a Tigers try for 2 came up just short in a 14-12 loss.
Viera’s most magical season in history came a year ago. A Hawks team that had not only never won a playoff game but had never scored in one won four in a row to reach the Class 7A final. There, the Hawks lost to a loaded St. Thomas Aquinas team, 45-10.
Before that defeat, Viera had outscored its 2015 playoff opponents, 151-62. That included a pair of historic wins for the program. The first was a regional final win over a Lakeland team with six state titles, most recently in 2006.
The Hawks followed that up with a road victory over Columbia, the school tied for the eighth-most postseason appearances in the state, with 30. The two teams battled for mosts of the game before Viera pulled away for a 42-23 win that propelled the team into the final in Orlando.
Melbourne Central Catholic doesn’t have much of a postseason story, and before 2009, the Hustlers had never won a regional contest. That year, MCC won at North Florida Christian but did not get past its next opponent. In 2013, the Hustlers were coming off a perfect regular season but needed five overtimes to move past Frostproof by a point to advance to its second regional final.
MCC fell hard in both regional finals, 48-12 against Jacksonville Trinity Christian in 2009 and 45-10 to Tampa Catholic in ’13.
Whatever happens Friday, the Hustlers now have a nine-overtime win over Clearwater Central Catholic for a regional championship. CCC had played in the state semifinal round the last four years, but MCC will get its first shot at a state final this week, against Chaminade-Madonna in Melbourne.
Friday high school football playoffs matchups
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Class 7A regional final
Viera (9-2) at Tampa Plant (11-0)
Class 4A state semifinal
Miami Booker T. Washington (9-3) at Cocoa (9-1)
Class 3A state semifinal
Chaminade-Madonna (9-3) at Melbourne Central Catholic (11-0)