CONCORD, CA (Dec. 7, 2021) — And then there were none.
This fall’s schedule was the second season for California high school football teams in 2021, and it had more than its share of unique happenings. Five local teams reached the North Coast Section playoffs, but each had their seasons end prematurely.
However, nothing was more unusual than this weekend’s CIF State Bowl Games being held without De La Salle. For the first time since California restarted its championship games in 2006 the Spartans of Concord will not be part of the final weekend after 14 consecutive appearances.
Last Friday on their Owen Owens Field in Concord, De La Salle missed a two-point conversion in the final two minutes and fell to Sacramento-area power Folsom 28-27 in the Northern California Regional 1-AA finals. Folsom’s first-ever win over DLS—after losing five lopsided matchups since 2012 between the two unquestioned prep football leaders over the past decade—puts the Bulldogs in Friday’s 1-AA State Bowl Game against Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
For coach Justin Alumbaugh’s Spartans the result was the second upset in a week. The previous Sunday, CIF tabbed Serra of San Mateo, coached by De La Salle football legend Patrick Walsh, to represent Northern California in the Open Division championship game against Mater Dei.
This was only the second time De La Salle wasn’t selected for the top game after Grant of Sacramento was chosen buy CIF as the NorCal representative in the 2008 Open Division and the Spartans played in the Division I finale instead.
Most prep football experts felt DLS was more deserving of getting the 2021 Open Division berth based on the fact their regular season included one-sided wins over CIF Section champions Folsom (31-10), Cathedral Catholic (49-21) and Pittsburg (42-14). The NCS Open Division win over Pitt gave the Spartans their 29th consecutive North Coast Section title.
De La Salle’s two losses were to national power Saint Frances Academy of Baltimore and Saint Francis of Mountain View, which was ranked No. 1 in Norcal entering the playoffs.
The deciding factor
CIF said the deciding factor was Serra’s dramatic 16-12 win over previously undefeated Saint Francis in the Central Coast Section championship game. Saint Francis earlier this season edged DLS 31-28, ending the Concord school’s incredible 318-game unbeaten streak against NorCal opponents dating back to the 1991 NCS championship game. Three weeks before the CCS finals Serra lost to Saint Francis 44-21 in their WCAL matchup.
The NorCal finals game looked like another win for De La Salle as the Spartans raced out to a quick 14-0 lead. From that point Folsom quarterback Tyler Tremain, who was injured during the earlier game against De La Salle, led his team with three rushing and one passing touchdowns. The game was marred by numerous penalties and DLS had four first-half turnovers that stymied their offense.
With Folsom leading 28-21, DLS scored a touchdown with 1:42 left in the fourth quarter to pull within a point. Alumbaugh told the media he never considered kicking the extra point that would have tied the game and potentially led to overtime. Instead, they went for a two-point conversion and the lead.
“No questions at all. We had all the momentum. We got the ball to our best player [Michigan commit Zeke Berry] and they stopped him. Give them all the credit. Folsom played their tails off and deserved to win.” Following that stop Folsom recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock before the Bulldogs celebrated on the Spartans field.
The Spartans ended the season with a 10-3 record. The only other times DLS has lost as many as three games in a season were 2004 when they finished 8-3-2 and saw their national record 151-game winning streak ended in the season opener in Washington and in 1979 when a young new coach Bob Ladouceur’s first team was 6-3.
For more amazing stats on De La Salle football read this MaxPreps story.
Five teams in playoffs
The five local squads taking part in NCS football playoffs were the most local participation since 2014 when seven schools from the area were in the post-season Section tournament.
Clayton Valley Charter has been a fixture at NCS as well as playing in three State Bowl championship games since 2014 while Northgate rode a six-game winning streak into this fall’s playoffs. Mt. Diablo and Berean Christian also earned berths after each finished the regular season under .500.
Clayton Valley Charter was top seeded in the Division 1 bracket and justified that placement by beating Antioch 42-21 in the first round and then reversing a regular season loss to California by winning 24-21.
The East Bay Athletic League champion Ugly Eagles then met Pittsburg for the NCS D-1 championship and a NorCal Regional Bowl berth in the new NCS format that starts with four teams in the Open Division and four in D-1. The concept was setup to give a top NCS team a chance to advance in the CIF playoffs after facing De La Salle in the Open Division finals.
Pitt lost to the Spartans but then got the chance for redemption when they hosted CVCHS in the Division 1 finals. The Pirates prevailed over coach Tim Murphy’s Ugly Eagles 28-14. Murphy felt his team was right in the contest but was unable to convert drives into touchdowns, settling too often for field goal attempts.
Coach Ben Ballard’s Northgate Broncos drew top seed Windsor and fell to the eventual Division 3 championship team 35-17 in the first-round. The end came abruptly but it was a successful season for the Walnut Creek school, which split its first four games before ripping off six straight wins, including all five of its Diablo Athletic League Valley Division contests to win the league championship. Northgate was last in the playoffs in 2017.
No. 8 Mt. Diablo football returned to NCS for the first time since 2014 and the Red Devils were rewarded with a game at No. 1 seed Marin Catholic. The result was a lopsided loss for coach Donald James team 66-0. Marin Catholic went on to take the Division 4 championship (the team’s 11th Section crown) by outscoring its three opponents 142-23.
Berean Christian and coach Tim Schultz got the sixth seed and battled No. 3 Cloverdale down to the wire before losing 28-26 in a NCS battle of Eagles in the new Division 7. Berean was last in the NCS playoffs in 2018.
Football Season Results
Clayton Valley Charter 9-4, 3-1 (Div. 1)- 8/30 W 35-23 at Turlock, 9/3 L 20-26 at Del Oro-Loomis, 9/11 W 14-13 Liberty-Bakersfield (Honor Bowl) at Liberty (Brentwood), 9/17 W 48-0 Benicia, 9/25 W 35-28 at Monterey Trail-Elk Grove, 10/8 L 18-19 at California-San Ramon, 10/15 W 28-21 San Ramon Valley, 10/22 W 21-17 Amador Valley (Homecoming), 10/29 W 34-14 Monte Vista, 11/5, L 21-42 at De La Salle, W 42-21 Antioch (NCS), W 24-21 California (NCS), L 14-28 at Pittsburg (NCS).
Concord 1-9, 1-4 (Div. 4)- 8/27 Canceled Dougherty Valley-San Ramon, 9/3 L 0-62 Marin Catholic-Kentfield, 9/10 L 0-25 Tokay, 9/17 L 23-30, 9/25 L 7-25 at Valley, 10/2 L 13-35 at Bethel-Vallejo, 10/8 L 7-40 College Park (Homecoming), 10/15 W 13-12 at Ygnacio Valley, 10/22 L 0-70 Northgate, 10/30 L 14-34 at Berean Christian, 11/5 L 34-36 Mt. Diablo.
College Park 5-5, 4-1 (Div. 3) – 8/28 L 0-48 at Redwood-Larkspur, 9/4 L 27-43 Foothill-Pleasanton, 9/17 W 9-0 at Hercules, 9/24 L 21-40 Wood-Vacaville, 10/1 L 13-20 at Alhambra-Martinez, 10/8 W 40-7 at Concord, 10/15 W 42-9 Berean Christian, 10/22 W 33-6 at Ygnacio Valley, 10/29 W 34-0 at Mt. Diablo, 11/5 L 21-48 Northgate.
De La Salle 10-3 (Div. 1)- 8/28 W 52-16 St. Mary’s-Stockton, 9/3 W 68-6 Monterey Trail-Elk Grove, 9/10 L 28-31 at Saint Francis-Mountain View, 9/17 W 49-21 Cathedral Catholic-San Diego, 10/1 L 28-43 St. Frances Academy-Baltimore, 10/8 W 31-10 at Folsom, 10/15 W 52-14 California-San Ramon, 10/22 W 48-14 at San Ramon Valley, 10/29 W 41-0 Amador Valley, 11/5 W 42-21 Clayton Valley Charter, W 49-13 James Logan-Union City (NCS), W 42-14 Pittsburg (NCS), L 27-28 Folsom (NorCal 1-AARegional Bowl).
Mt. Diablo 4-7, 2-3 (Div. 4)- 8/27 L 26-49 at Lathrop, 9/3 W 50-0 at Albany, 9/10 W 16-6 American-Fremont, 9/17 L 22-65 at Dougherty Valley-San Ramon, 9/24 L 0-2 forfeit Mission-San Francisco, 10/8 W 10-6 Ygnacio Valley (Homecoming), 10/15 L 8-40 at Northgate, 10/22 L 0-40 Berean Christian, 10/29 L 0-34 College Park (Senior Night), 11/5 W 36-34 at Concord, L 0-66 at Marin Catholic-Kentfield (NCS).
Northgate 8-3, 5-0 (Div. 3)- 9/3 W 41-21 Ukiah, 9/10 L 22-45 at Las Lomas, 9/17 W 30-0 Bethel-Vallejo, 9/24 L 21-29 at Rodriguez-Fairfield, 10/1 W 27-12 at Deer Valley, 10/8 W 41-6 Berean Christian (Homecoming), 10/15 W 40-8 Mt. Diablo, 10/22 W 70-0 at Concord, 10/29 W 35-0 Ygnacio Valley, 11/5 W 48-21 at College Park, L 17-35 Windsor (NCS).
Ygnacio Valley 0-10, 0-5 (Div. 6)- 9/3 L 14-20 St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo, 9/10 L 0-39 at Rosemont-Sacramento, 9/17 L 0-54 El Cerrito, 9/24 L 8-63 at Bradshaw Christian-Sacramento, 10/1 L 6-17 at Stone Ridge Christian-Merced, 10/8 L 6-10 at Mt. Diablo, 10/15 L 12-13 Concord, 10/22 L 6-33 College Park, 10/29 L 0-35 at Northgate, 11/5 L 20-43 Berean Christian.
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.