De La Salle returns to SouCal for rematch of State title game to open football season

De La Salle returns to SoCal for rematch of State title game to open football season

De La Salle returns to SouCal for rematch of State title game to open football season
De La Salle’s Jonathan Hackett (21) of Clayton attempts to outrun St. John Bosco defender Stephan Blaylock during the 2016 CIF Open Division football championship game won by the Southern California team at Sacramento State. (James K. Leash photo courtesy of SportStars)

When it was announced this week that De La Salle High will travel to Bellflower in Southern California on Jan. 8 to open its schedule against St. John Bosco it was just the latest unique aspect to the 2020 high school football season, which won’t take place until 2021.

Those two all-boys parochial schools met in the CIF State Open Division championship game last December when Bosco won 49-28 for its third title game win over the Spartans since 2013. This will be the first time two teams who met in a CIF championship football final had a rematch in the opening game of the following season.

Coaches Justin Alumbaugh of DLS and Jason Negro of Bosco are friends and were able to hammer out the details with their athletic directors including Leo Lopoz of the Spartans after the fall season was scuttled in July by the coronavirus pandemic.

Each school had scheduled a high-profile, out-of-state game to open its original 2019 slate. Bosco had been set to travel to Ohio while the Concord team was going to play a nationally-televised game on EPSN in Texas against two-time defending 6A D-1 state champion North Shore in Houston in an ESPN game.

2 Concord State Bowl teams setting schedules for season

De La Salle has a decades-long tradition of scheduling national-caliber opponents early in their season. Alumbaugh says part of the reasoning for that is to reward Spartan seniors for their years in the program.

The team also has a reputation for improving from their first game to the last, which they hope and expect to be the State championship game, and thus facing powerful opponents early gives the coaches and players a barometer of where they are and where they need to be.

De La Salle and Bosco account for nine of the last 11 CIF Open Division championships. Mater Dei of Santa Ana won the other two, both over DLS. Mater Dei and Bosco have been the unquestioned state powers the past four years while piling up wins, national rankings and championships with rosters loaded with Division I football prospects, many of whom transferred into the two SoCal schools.

The Spartans are the only school to have played in a CIF Bowl Game every year since they began in 2006. De La Salle has won seven of its 14 title games, including back-to-back crowns in 2014-15 under the tutelage of Alumbaugh. The Spartan alumnus took over for the legendary Bob Ladouceur, winner of four consecutive CIF championships before his retirement at the end of the 2012 season.

The virus still has final say

All of the excitement around the announcement of this early season showdown is tempered by the realization that the COVID-19 situation means nothing is certain. The North Coast Section recently moved up the date one week to Dec. 7 for school teams to start practicing for football, cross country, volleyball and water polo season.

Local and state health and government officials will have the final say if high school sports can resume on that schedule. The DLS-SJB game is slated for Friday evening, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. in Panish Family Stadium. That time is subject to change for television.

Alumbaugh told the Los Angeles Times that his school has made no decision on how to transport its team to and from Southern California to ensure proper social distancing and other health protocols. Multiple buses or parents driving their own sons to the game are possibilities.

Making the six-hour drive each way that day is also very much under discussion to avoid staying over before or after the game, risking COVID-19 infections at the very beginning of a season the Spartans hope ends April 17 at the CIF Open Division Bowl game, which CIF says is still a possibility. If it is held, it will be the only State Bowl game in this one-of-a-kind season.

Should the opener take place, fourth-year Spartan quarterback Dorian Hale and his talented skill position teammates will face another Bosco juggernaut. Before the fall cancelations Mater Dei was second, Bosco third and De La Salle 17th in the MaxPreps High School Preseason National Top 100. Fifteen of those top 100 teams in the poll were from California.

Bosco will be without 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback DJ Uiagalelei who racked up over 450 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in last year’s championship game before leaving for Clemson. The Braves have five of the top 91 recruits in the state according to, while DLS has none in the top 100. The Times reported that eight quarterbacks are on the Bosco roster vying for the starting position.

Clayton Valley Charter also adjusting schedule

Middle linebacker Dylan Seeley (36) will be a key member of the Clayton Valley Charter defense as they attempt to replicate their North Coast Section and Northern California championships when this strange season begins in January. Seeley is one of several key returning players from the 2019 State champion Ugly Eagles. (Photo courtesy CVCHS football)

The pandemic also affected a Sept. 12 date between first-time CIF 2-AA champion Clayton Valley Charter at the Honor Bowl against defending Washington 3A champion Eastside Catholic. The Ugly Eagles have now scheduled nine of their possible 10 games.

Included in the non-league schedule are games against two defending league champions: at Turlock on Jan. 15 and their final pre-EBAL game Feb. 12 against Menlo Atherton at Gonsalves Stadium. Menlo features the No. 2 recruit in the State, wide receiver Troy Franklin, who has made a verbal commitment to Oregon.

Coach Tim Murphy will have CVCHS post-season stars quarterback Jake Kern and runningback Omari Taylor returning for their senior seasons along with standouts Dylan Seeley, Tyler Charbonneau and Erik Christopherson. CVCHS was reclassified by NCS to Division I this season after taking its fourth D-II championship since 2012 last fall.

De La Salle travels to Clayton Valley Charter in the final regular-season game for both Concord schools Mar. 20.

The NCS playoffs begin the following weekend Mar. 26-27 and conclude April 10. The Spartans will be seeking their 29th consecutive Section title.