When the Game Stands Tall

December 6, 2013
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De La Salle HS FootballNext 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.


With one win in the playoffs, the De La Salle Spartans were ready to take on the next challenger in the way of their 22nd consecutive sectional championship (let that sink in for a second–they’ve won the title every year since 1991). In this case, that team was the Deer Valley Wolverines, a team that on paper looked similar to the Spartans in a number of areas.  They had a very talented quarterback by the name of Nsimba Webster who had already thrown or ran for 46 touchdowns during the season.  The offense had scored no less than 28 points in any game.  Even the records were similar, as one would expect at this point in the year.

De La Salle opened the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown run by Antoine Custer. But on Deer Valley’s first play from scrimmage, Webster got free and sprinted to the end zone on an 80-yard touchdown run.  He then capitalized on a Spartan turnover by throwing a touchdown pass to put the Wolverines up 14-7.

This was a situation that Coach Alumbaugh and the team had rarely found themselves in all season.  How would they respond?

The answer: One touchdown run by John Velasco to tie the game at 14, then 29 unanswered points in the second quarter to put the contest out of reach.  In other words, it’s exactly what the #6 team in the country (per USA Today) should do.

With the win, the Spartans advance to the title game of the North Coast Section in Dublin (a neutral site) against a familiar foe.  The #3 seed California upset #2 seed Pittsburg 31-17, making for what could be an awkward matchup.  Remember that in their contest earlier in the season, De La Salle whitewashed the Grizzlies 55-0.

If we are to look forward, who might the Spartans play in the Regional Championship provided they win on Saturday?  The answer is not clear at all.  According to the CIF guidelines, teams are paired up for the championship matchups based on school size, winning their section, and these factors:

* Won-loss record (Preseason – League – Section Playoffs)
* Strength of schedule (Preseason – League – Section Playoffs)
* Head-to-head competition
* Common opponents
* Suitability to represent the state in a Bowl Championship with regards to pursuing victory with honor and acceptable standards of sportsmanship.

That final point is nebulous enough that it allows for modifications in what teams can play each other in the Regional Championships.  Thus, if a pairing looks to be too lopsided, for example, the group that determines the matchups has the ability to adjust them to be more balanced.

In De La Salle’s case, the current projection is that if they win on Saturday, they would face the winner of the Oak Ridge/Folsom matchup in the Sac/Joaquin Sectional.   Folsom (14-0; #29 nationally per USA Today) presents a special problem for the committee. Are they willing to put De La Salle up against Folsom, two of the best teams in the country, as a marquee matchup in a Regional Championship (they played last year in a Regional, with De La Salle winning 49-15)?  Or are they willing to have Folsom go down to Division 1 so that the Spartans and Folsom each have a shot at a Bowl Championship?

Other teams that could fall into play here include Del Oro (12-2), Elk Grove (13-1), Archbishop Mitty (12-1), Oak Ridge (13-1), and Serra (12-2).  Serra was the team that almost defeated De La Salle earlier in the year.

But these are nothing more than hypotheticals at this point.  There are still sectional finals to be played.  Let’s see what happens first.

Final score: De La Salle 57, Deer Valley 27 (win #38 in a row)
[NOTE: this is currently the 10th longest HS winning streak of all time]
Current Record: 12-0-0
Next game: Saturday 12/7 vs. California (11-2), CIF NCS Final

(credit to MaxPreps and cifstate.org for game and playoff info)

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My goal is to provide you, the reader, with articles that both challenge and inspire you to consider who God is and the role He plays in a person's life. For me, meshing the faith with our culture is an important and immensely rewarding adventure. I currently live in Bakersfield CA with my wife and three daughters. Join me on Twitter @nomoreblackeyes

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