In dominating a team that has a win over L.A. City powerhouse Narbonne of Harbor City, No. 1 De La Salle shows the gap between itself and the rest of the state (other than two teams) probably is as wide as its ever been.
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Despite a bumbling start that included two lost fumbles and an interception within its first few possessions, it was an impressive outing to say the least for state No. 1 De La Salle of Concord on Friday night against visiting Long Beach Poly.
The Spartans only led 7-0 after the first quarter and 22-6 at halftime, but buried the Jackrabbits in the second half for a 52-6 victory. They also held Long Beach Poly, which was No. 8 in the state coming into the night, to just 83 yards of total offense with the only score allowed occurring on a kickoff return.
Senior Antoine Custer rushed 28 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns to lead an offense that went unofficially for 392 yards.
“They’re talented and they’re good, but our defense was awesome tonight,” said De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh. “All we gave up was that kickoff return so that’s just three points allowed by the defense in the last four games against some pretty good offenses. I’m really happy how they’ve come along (since the loss to Trinity of Texas).”
Alumbaugh also admitted there was a little extra pressure put on the outcome of the game since the two programs are so historically significant in the annals of California prep football.
“We watched the 2001 game with the team and Maurice (Jones-Drew) was here tonight,” the coach said. “Those great games with Poly means a lot to our tradition. It means a lot to uphold it.”
“It was real important,” Custer said. “Those other games had a big rivalry feel to it. We know a lot of people came out and we wanted to please the alumni. I think we did.”
In addition to the Jackrabbits dropping that 2001 game 29-15 (which matched the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation for the first time), they also played the Spartans at Cal’s Memorial Stadium in 2002 and lost 42-0.
Poly started drives at the De La Salle 49-yard line and on its own 30 after two fumble recoveries in the first quarter, but was stopped on downs. An interception by junior linebacker Amanki Vaea also stopped a DLS drive on the 11-yard line in the second quarter.
Still, by the time Vaea made his play, the Jackrabbits already were down 14-0. They also wound up getting pushed back into the end zone for a safety (called due to a holding penalty in the end zone).
After De La Salle then went up 22-0 on a 19-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Anthony Sweeney to senior tight end Devin Asiasi, Poly’s big moment of the night then happened when junior defensive back Aaron Shampklin grabbed the ensuing kickoff, reversed the field and scampered for a 70-yard score.
Leading 22-6 at halftime, the Spartans seemed intent on imposing their will on their first drive of the second half. They did, marching 71 yards in 18 plays and scoring on one-yard plunge by Sweeney.
After that, the rout ensued. The 30-6 score became 37-6 on a 21-yard TD run by Custer following a fumble recovery by senior defensive end Damon Wiley and then 43-6 after a 20-yard interception return by junior defensive back Tre White.
“The defense was great,” Custer said. “DBs, linebackers and D-Line. We’ve all been playing well, tackling every day in practice.”
Poly’s offensive problems all came with junior Nolan McDonald playing at quarterback. Senior quarterback Malik Henry (the Florida State commit) was not dressed and did not play. His absence was not evident to De La Salle coaches until both teams were warming up.
Both McDonald and Henry played when the Jackrabbits lost their first game of the season in a similar 52-13 loss to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which is No. 1 in some national rankings.
In addition to Custer’s yardage, senior Andrew Hernandez also had another solid outing with 22 carries for 109 yards and one touchdown.
While the Spartans were leading 22-6 at halftime, several Poly fans near the sidelines requested the score of the night’s major matchup in Southern California between state No. 3 St. John Bosco and No. 4 Mater Dei.
“Bosco is ahead 42 to nothing,” was the response. To say mouths were opened and eyebrows raised was an understatement.
With defending CIF Southern California Open Division champion Corona Centennial also blitzing opponents with regularity (including that 52-13 win vs. state No. 6 Serra of Gardena at the Honor Bowl), it’s becoming increasingly obvious that St. John Bosco and Centennial along with De La Salle have opened up a rather gaping chasm between themselves and any other teams in the state.
Who really cares which one is No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3? The Huskies and Braves will likely meet in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 championship and the winner will then very likely meet De La Salle for the CIF Open Division title. The Spartans have won that game five of the last six years.
Folsom, last year’s CIF Division I state champion, would very likely need De La Salle to lose again in order to wrest the NorCal Open Division bowl slot away from the Spartans. And given that De La Salle only has Northern California opponents to play through the CIF North Coast Section playoffs and hasn’t lost to a NorCal team since 1991, the odds of that happening are miniscule.