Sweeney, DLS sweep past Byrnes

Anthony Sweeney directed the De La Salle of Concord offense to more than 500 yards in his first start as the team's quarterback. He is one of many junior standouts on this year's team. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Anthony Sweeney directed the De La Salle of Concord offense to more than 500 yards in his first start as the team’s quarterback. He is one of many junior standouts on this year’s team. Photo: Mark Tennis.

South Carolina team that was No. 33 in one national poll this week can’t stop the offense of State No. 2 De La Salle of Concord in 56-28 loss seen on ESPNU.

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One week after the Byrnes High football team of Duncan (S.C.) took on and beat a school known for a movie, the Rebels tried again on Friday in Concord and ended up being the supporting role in a red carpet premiere of a quarterback making his first start.

De La Salle junior Anthony Sweeney, who couldn’t play in the Spartans’ first two games after suffering a knee injury in a scrimmage, came back from an interception on his first pass to lead the Spartans to a convincing victory.

Sweeney only completed five passes but they went for 152 yards and one score. He also rushed six times for 60 yards and one touchdown and generally added more dimensions to a De La Salle offense that already had more explosiveness than last year with starting running backs Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez.

“That wasn’t even his fault,” head coach Justin Alumbaugh said of Sweeney’s first pass. “It was my fault for making that play call. But he responded really well. He played really good. Our quarterbacks have to make decisions every play and he did a good job of it.”

Byrnes is a perennial power in South Carolina that often plays in an ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU broadcast. Rebels’ alum Marcus Lattimore of the San Francisco 49ers was on his alma mater’s sideline throughout and stayed to the end.

De La Salle DB Je'Vari Anderson is bigger, stronger and faster than he was last season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

De La Salle DB Je’Vari Anderson is bigger, stronger and faster than he was last season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

In last week’s 50-0 win that improved the record of head coach Brian Lane’s team to 2-0, the Rebels beat Hanna of Anderson, S.C., which was the school that spawned the 2006 movie “Radio” about a mentally challenged man who helps the Hanna football team.

It wasn’t quite as easy against the school that is the center of this year’s film “When The Game Stands Tall.”

The Spartans built a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter. One of those early touchdowns occurred when Custer bolted down to the Byrnes’ 1-yard line before he was hit and the ball popped loose. Fortunately for De La Salle, teammate David Bartolucci recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.

Rejon Scott put the Rebels on the scoreboard with a six-yard run with 5:06 left in the second quarter, but De La Salle still ended up with enough time to score twice and take a 35-7 lead at halftime.

The biggest blow for Byrnes was failing on a fourth-down play at its own 43-yard line just before the break. That gave the Spartans enough time for Sweeney to complete a 40-yard pass to Jonathan Harvey. Custer then took it in for the fifth DLS touchdown with just 20.4 seconds showing on the clock.

It was a sloppy third quarter, but Byrnes showed some life after a blocked punt. It set up a nine-yard TD pass from Micah Young to Tavin Richardson.

On De La Salle’s next series, it appeared as though the Spartans were going to punt the ball back to the Rebels. Instead of punting, though, Jordan Katz threw a pass to Custer, who weaved through Byrnes’ defenders for a 65-yard touchdown. Instead of Byrnes getting the ball back down 35-14 and with momentum, De La Salle had its lead back up to 42-14.

“We had worked on that play all week,” Alumbaugh said. “Terry (Eidson) came up to me and said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Run it.’ If Terry says it’ll work, you go with it.”

On the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans’ special teams weren’t as special as they were on the fake punt. Lyrics Klugh caught the ball at the 8-yard line, shifted to the Byrnes’ sidelines and outraced everyone for a 92-yard touchdown.

Unfortunately for Byrnes, its defense just could not get stops when it needed to and the teams simply traded scores for the rest of the game.

De La Salle went on a six-play, 61-yard scoring drive after Klugh’s kickoff return and went on a five-play, 60-yard scoring drive after a Byrnes’ TD pass from Young to Braylin Collins. Custer went 10 yards for the first of those two scores while Hernandez notched the other on a 32-yard scamper.

With Sweeney at the controls other than the last series when Chris Vanderklugt was under center, the DLS rushing game amassed 306 yards plus 217 passing (including the 65-yard fake punt play). Custer had 15 carries for 122 yards plus two catches for 91 yards.

“That was a very talented team we played,” said Alumbaugh, who will guide De La Salle next week at Del Oro of Loomis. “I like a lot of what we did. I only didn’t like the third quarter. We lost some composure with some of those penalties. We responded in a way I was not happy with.”

Young had a busy night for Byrnes. He completed 27 of 44 passes for 229 yards and two TDs. He also rushed 15 times for 53 yards. Both Collins and Richardson gave the De La Salle defense problems with their size and speed.

It’s hard to say whether “The Game Stands Tall” trumps “Radio” as a movie, but on this night De La Salle certainly trumped one of the top programs in the South.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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