De La Salle has chance at 8th state bowl championship Friday

De La Salle has chance at 8th state bowl championship Friday

De La Salle has chance at 8th state bowl championship Friday
Senior captain and defensive standout Drew Cunningham signaled De La Salle’s standing after winning a 31st North Coast Section championship and taking the Northern California Division 1 title to send the Concord school back to the State Bowl game this Friday in Orange County. (Tod Fierner photo courtesy De La Salle Athletics)

CONCORD, CA (Dec. 5, 2023) — De La Salle earned everlasting notoriety with its 151-game high school football winning streak that spawned a major motion picture, books and a legacy for the Concord school from coast to coast.

This Friday evening at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo the Spartans face a hostile crowd and local Orange County power Mission Viejo High in the CIF State 1-AA Bowl Game.

And this time, De La Salle will try to end a long losing streak.

The legendary high school football program known for winning has lost five consecutive State Bowl games since 2016 after dominating during the first 10 years of the State Bowls winning seven of 10 championships against Southern California’s top teams.

Then DLS ran into the national 1-2 punch of Mater Dei and Saint John Bosco losing twice to each between 2016 and 2019, which came after the Spartans won six of seven state titles through 2015.

After the pandemic eliminated the 2020 playoffs, Coach Justin Alumbaugh’s team missed out on a bowl berth for the only time in 2021 when they lost the NorCal championship game to Folsom. They were back in the bowl last year but fell to Lincoln of San Diego 33-28.

Overall, DLS is 7-8 during the 16 seasons starting in 2006 that California has had State Bowl Games. No other school has played nearly as many times as the Spartans.

Slow start

This season didn’t start too auspiciously for the Spartans as they lost their first two games (the second a 28-0 shutout to Serra) and faced a brutal schedule for most of the rest of the season. The team turned things around and is riding an 11-game winning streak into the season finale.

They won their 31st straight North Coast Section title with a fourth quarter surge to beat EBAL foe San Ramon Valley 17-7 in a rematch of their classic overtime clash during league play when DLS prevailed 33-27.

That put them in the 1-AA Northern California championship against unbeaten Clovis North. The Central Valley team was miffed that their 13-0 mark didn’t get them home field over the two-loss Spartans. State officials decided that DLS compiled their record against much stiffer competition and made them the home team.

Clovis North fans showed up at Owen Owens Field in large numbers last Friday looking to gain a State Bowl game berth. De La Salle gained its reputation and hundreds of victories running a veer option offense with a stifling defense.

Spartan coaches noticed the Broncos faced mostly spread offenses during the season and decided to double down on their veer attack to out physical Clovis North, and that is just what happened. The halftime score was 33-0 with Clovis gaining only one first down. By the mid second half the game was completed with a running clock and a 41-0 final score.

Mission Viejo – De La Salle matchup

They will be facing a passing team that has 40 touchdown passes with sophomore quarterback Luke Fahey leading the way. The Diablos leading receiver Vince Spafford has 21 TD grabs alone and top runningback Hinesward Lilomaiava has rushed for over 1000 yards and 16 touchdowns.

True to their nature, DLS has only nine TD passes and 33 rushing this season, when their scoring was generally much lower than past seasons. The team has scored over 40 points in three of its past four games.

De La Salle’s junior backfield trio of QB Toa Fa’avae and runningbacks Derrick Blanche and Dominic Kelley have combined to score 36 touchdowns and rush for over 2500 yards.

Last week the CalPreps.com computer picked Clovis North to defeat the Spartans and again this week De La Salle is tabbed to lose 24-19 to Mission Viejo. The Diablos are 12-3 on the season and rank fifth in California, one spot ahead of NorCal’s top-ranked Serra-San Mateo which faces overwhelming favorite Mater Dei (No. 1 in California and third nationally) in the Open Division Bowl Game Saturday.

Calpreps.com has Mission Viejo No. 14 in the US rankings with De La Salle 67th. The computer has Mater Dei No. 1 nationally.

Serra and California No. 8 Orange Lutheran handed the Concord school back-to-back defeats to open the season. Since then, among the top 100 teams De La Salle has defeated in their winning streak are Folsom (No. 11 in California), Clovis North (20), St. Mary’s (31), San Ramon Valley twice (35), El Cerrito (69), Amador Valley (73), Saint Francis (91). MaxPreps rankings cover 1043 high school teams in the state.

Folsom is in the 1-A State Bowl Saturday after edging previously undefeated Pittsburg in another NorCal Regional final, one division below the DLS-Clovis North game. Both El Cerrito and McClymonds who both lost to the Spartans were in Northern California Regional finals last week as well.

Now De La Salle hopes it can summon up one more top performance to end the year with a neat dozen consecutive wins.

Clayton Valley, Mt. Diablo out in 1st round

 Coach Nick Tisa’s first season in charge of Clayton Valley Charter ended in the opening round of the NCS Open/Division I playoffs when they lost to EBAL rival California 31-24 in a reversal of their league game two weeks earlier which the Ugly Eagles won 33-24.

The Concord school finished at 5-6, its first losing season since 2007.

Mt. Diablo also was out of the playoffs at the first step. The Red Devils and rookie coach Fetuao Mua had the misfortune of drawing Acalanes in the opening round of the Division IV playoffs. The Lafayette team bottled up star running back Herschel Turner and came away with a 56-14 victory over MD.

Acalanes has rolled on from that win all the way to the State Bowl 3-AA game this Saturday morning, also at Saddleback College.

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | sports@pioneerpublishers.com | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.

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