In September, moviegoers around the country will be able to relive the story of a high school football team that accomplished what may never be accomplished again. The De La Salle Spartans, out of Concord, CA, won 151 straight football games over a ten-year period, taking on some of the best teams in the country during that time. Their coach, Bob Ladocueur, stressed a game where the element of team was the main focus—and it worked in powerful ways.Although filming for the When the Game Stands Tall has wrapped up (see my on-set review here), that doesn’t mean the school has stopped playing football in real life. Coach Lad has taken on the role of assistant coach, passing on the reins to Justin Alumbaugh, who takes his career 0-0-0 record into battle this year. Each week, we’ll take a look at how the real De La Salle does with their new coach.
CIF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
As the playoffs get closer and closer to their conclusion, it’s inevitable that the contests will become more and more challenging. With another sectional title under their belt, it was time for the Spartans to face their toughest opponent of the season in Folsom. Much had been made about the rematch and quarterback Jake Browning’s 74 touchdown passes. It wasn’t going to be anything like the 49-15 blowout from the previous year that propelled De La Salle to an eventual State Bowl victory.
Or would it?
This contest found De La Salle getting on the scoreboard first, thanks to a rushing touchdown from quarterback Chris Williams. Folsom followed up with a field goal before the quarter ended to make the score 7-3. In the second period, John Velasco, the senior Spartan running back, added a pair of touchdowns to bring the score to 19-3. If Folsom was to have any opportunity of a comeback, their halftime adjustments would have to immediately put a dent into the De La Salle lead.
But it was not to be. De La Salle scored three more touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach (two more from Velsaco). Browning threw one touchdown pass to finish his stellar season at 75, but he did so with just 48 seconds left in the contest. He would finish the night 38/56 for 344 yards with 1 TD and 3 interceptions.
In essence, what was supposed to be a tight game ended up as an almost carbon copy of the preceding year’s battle. Said Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor after the game, “Those guys are incredible. There isn’t a single defensive lineman in Sacramento that can start for De La Salle. It’s just hard to simulate. You can’t.” De La Salle has 52.5 sacks as a team on the year.
With the win, De La Salle moves on to the Bowl Championship Game in Carson. The CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) has used the bowl system for six years, with the Spartans winning four of them. But they’re about to be tested like they haven’t been tested all year.
The Spartans’ opponent in the title game will be the Braves from St. John Bosco. USA Today has them ranked nationally at #5, while MaxPreps says they’re #1. (In comparison, De La Salle is ranked #6 and #4 respectively) They advanced by defeating last year’s runner-up, Centennial, 70-49. Sophomore running back Sean McGrew put up Jamaal Charles-like numbers in the contest, rushing 17 times for 372 yards and 6 touchdowns while adding a reception for 76 yards and another TD for good measure (that would’ve been good for 79 pts in my PPR fantasy league).
One editor from MaxPreps went so far as to say that this matchup may be the biggest game in the history of California High School Football. I don’t think that’s exaggerated at all. The game will be played at the home of the LA Galaxy (capacity 27,000), so there will hopefully be a sold-out crowd.
Coach Alumbaugh said, “We’ll be playing a great team down there and we’re going to have to really be physical. We’ve also really, really got to play a clean game.” One area of note is placekicking (2 PATs missed and a botched snap on a field goal attempt), as this could prove costly in a game of this magnitude.
Will it be a great game? You bet it will!
Final score: De La Salle 45, Folsom 17 (win #40 in a row)
[NOTE: this is currently the 9th longest HS winning streak of all time]
Current Record: 14-0-0
Next game: Saturday 12/21 vs. St. John Bosco (15-0), CIF State Bowl Championship
8 PM PST, StubHub Center, Carson CA (go to cifstate.org for streaming options)
(credit to MaxPreps and Prep2Prep for game information)