Both Corona del Mar of Newport Beach and St. John Bosco of Bellflower recently hosted on-the-field celebrations with members of their football teams from 2013, which became the first teams in state history to end with 16-0 records. As a salute to what both teams did 10 years ago on the same day, here’s a look back at their CIF state championship games and with a recap of their historically significant seasons.
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It was easy to spot the photos of the players on social media that were sent out in recent weeks celebrating the accomplishments of the 2013 football teams at St. John Bosco of Bellflower and Corona del Mar of Newport Beach. The schools hosted 10-year reunions of those teams and there remains a lot to celebrate. They are still the first two teams in state history to ever finish a season 16-0 and win a CIF state title.
Since then, athletic administrators and coaches have become more cautious about football teams playing 16 games in a season. The creation of playoff byes where they weren’t before and the elimination of the CIF regional title games in the Open Division have all been factors as well. Still, there’s been seven teams since 2013 that also have finished with 16-0 records, including Corona del Mar for a second time in 2019. The others have been Campolindo of Moraga in 2014, Central Catholic of Modesto in 2015, Mission Viejo in 2015, Folsom in 2017 and Strathmore in 2017.
Bosco Tops De La Salle in Open Division
People in Southern California had been saying throughout the season that the St. John Bosco of Bellflower football team is the best they’d seen in 10 years – loaded with prospects on both sides of the line with a big-time junior quarterback in Josh Rosen directing it all.
After the Braves beat legendary program De La Salle of Concord 20-14 on a Saturday night in December at the StubHub Center in Carson, it looks like those folks were wrong. Coach Jason Negro’s team might have been the best from the Southland in 30 years beforehand.
With the victory, St. John Bosco not only ended De La Salle’s current winning streak at 40 games, not only ended the Spartans’ run of four straight CIF Open Division titles but also completed a 16-0 season. It wasn’t the first 16-0 season in state history, but tied the record set earlier in the day by Corona del Mar of Newport Beach.
The Braves were later officially named State Team of the Year and they were No. 1 in the final national rankings via computer. The consensus national champion for 2013, however, was unbeaten Katy High of Katy, Texas.“We are a second half team and coach just told us (offensive linemen) to keep our composure,” senior All-American lineman Damien Mama. “Our defense stepped up big-time. Coming into the game, a lot of people doubted us. That added fuel to our fire and it helped us out as a unit.”
Rosen connected with Jaleel Wadood for two touchdown passes – a 60-yarder early in the second quarter and another from seven yards out with 29 seconds left before halftime. He finished 12 of 17 for 200 yards and two TDs.
“We wanted to end the season without a loss and we had a target on our back all season,” Rosen said.
Sophomore Sean McGrew, who scored seven touchdowns in a SoCal Open regional shootout win over Corona Centennial, didn’t get into the end zone for Bosco in the state final but he did rush for 148 yards on 24 carries.
“Going into this week, we knew it was going to be the best defensive line we’ve ever seen,” McGrew said. “We had a great week of practice, working hard on our schemes.”
For one of the rare times, De La Salle didn’t out-rush the opposing team. The team did pick up 17 first downs and senior John Velasco capped a strong season with 21 carries for 93 yards.
“We had a lot of desire, and our kids played really hard, we just didn’t play well,” said De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh. “That was a really high caliber football game, good hitting by two good teams going at it.”
For most of the game, and into the fourth quarter, it looked like St. John Bosco’s advantages were going to result in a more convincing win. De La Salle was bogged down with poor field position and with 8:48 left the Braves took a 20-7 lead on a 29-yard field goal by Reid Budrovich.
But the Spartans haven’t done all that they’ve done by wilting away against a more talented team. With 6:27 left, senior quarterback Chris Williams (6 of 14, 97 yds passing; 39 yds rushing) tossed a bomb down the left hashmark that teammate and track star Marquise Morris caught for a touchdown. Just like that, and after the PAT, De La Salle was within 20-14.
Morris’ big catch also fired up the Spartan defense. A sack by sophomore Devin Asiasi and then a bobbled shotgun snap led to the Braves having to punt with 4:38 left. De La Salle was in business at the Bosco 44-yard line and had plenty of time to drive the field for a possible game-winning touchdown.
“On the play I got sacked, there was a busted route,” Rosen said. “On the next play, I just picked up the ball and it was soaking wet. If I would have lost that ball and we would have lost that game, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself for the rest of my life.”
After picking up one first down to the Braves’ 33-yard line, the drive stalled and the Spartans had to go for it on fourth down. They tried a screen pass, but senior Gavin Windes came up with the biggest defensive play of the night for St. John Bosco. He tipped the pass, then grabbed it for an interception.
The Braves still needed to run off 2:15 from the clock to secure the win. After a Spartans’ timeout with 1:28 left, they faced third and five. Rosen then faked to McGrew, kept the ball and raced for 37 yards to the 11-yard line. All that was left for the Braves was to kneel down twice.
How good was this De La Salle team?
Before answering how high to consider St. John Bosco’s 2013 team, first it’s necessary to ask how strong this edition of the Spartans ranked among its many great teams.
Entering the game, most in Northern California thought of the first team under Alumbaugh (longtime head coach Bob Ladoucuer retired after the 2012 season) to be just as strong as the last four. The linemen blocking up front – particularly seniors Sumner Houston and Larry Allen Jr. – are considered among the best in school history and that didn’t change with this loss.
Unfortunately for De La Salle, St. John Bosco’s linemen, for the most part, won the battle up front. It was a group led by senior Mama (6-5, 350) plus juniors Zachary Robinson (6-5, 308) and Matt Katnik (6-2, 296).
With linemen like that, plus the explosive players on the edge, the Braves appeared to be superior than Centennial of Corona of 2008, which was the last California team to beat De La Salle and finish No. 1 in the state prior to 2013.
A quick glance at all of the other State Teams of the Year from Southern California after 2013 that we’ve seen at Cal-Hi Sports gets us back to 1993 for a team that we liked just as much as the 2013 Braves and that was Eisenhower of Rialto. The Eagles (14-0) won the CIF Southern Section top division title that year with a 52-3 win over Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Since 2013, unbeaten Mater Dei of Santa Ana (15-0) for 2017 is also now considered one of the state’s best/greatest ever.
“They’ve got to be way up there,” said Alumbaugh when asked to compare the Braves to other teams De La Salle has faced in the past. “I’d say they’re right up there with the 2001 (Long Beach) Poly team.”
CdM Defeats Sacred Heart Prep
The CIF State Championship Division III Bowl Game between Corona del Mar of Newport Beach and Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton in 2013 looked like it might be a blowout after one quarter, but actually it turned into a pretty entertaining and record setting game.
In the end, despite only getting two field goals in the game’s final 36 minutes, the three touchdowns Corona del Mar put on the scoreboard to lead 21-0 at the end of the first quarter was more than enough points to secure the southwestern Orange County school its first-ever CIF state bowl game title with a 27-15 victory.
With the victory, Corona del Mar (16-0) also extended the state’s second-longest winning streak at the time to 26 games, secured a fifth CIF bowl game championship for Orange County, and became the first school in state history to win 16 games. St. John Bosco of Bellflower tied that record a few hours later on the same field.
“It feels great,” remarked 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior Luke Napolitano on quarterbacking a 16-0 team. “But the reason this team is 16-0 is because we have an amazing line and an amazing defense – and we’re a bunch of kids that love football and grew up playing together.”
What Corona del Mar did early on was score points in bunches.
After the Sea Kings received the opening kickoff, they promptly marched 75 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a five-yard TD pass from Napolitano to Bo St. Geme.
Then, when a three-and-out for Sacred Heart Prep ended in a desperation minus-2-yard punt after the ball was snapped over the head of the punter, Corona del Mar took advantage of a short field to make it 14-0 on another five-yard scoring pass, this time from Napolitano to Connor Sage.
Sacred Heart Prep then got the ball and crossed midfield on what looked like a promising drive when Corona del Mar free safety Barrett Barbato stepped in front of a Gators’ wide receiver and danced 58 yards down the sideline to paydirt.
Just as it appeared the rout was on, Sacred Heart Prep’s defense stiffened and returned the favor when Andrew Robinson picked off Napolitano and raced 37 yards for a score. The two-point conversion made it 21-8.
Sacred Heart Prep closed the gap to 21-15 at halftime when Ben Burr-Kirven turned on the jets and blew past everyone for a 47-yard TD run.
Unfortunately for the Gators’ faithful, that would be the last time their team would score, as three second half turnovers, two Division III Bowl Game record tying field goals by the Sea Kings’ kicker Jason Neiger, and the running of teammate Cole Martin closed the door on any comeback hopes.
Despite not finding the end zone, Martin, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior, finished with 157 yards on 28 carries, however 20 of the carries and 120 of the yards came in the second half when Corona del Mar head coach Scott Meyer was trying to control the game using his ground game.
For his efforts Martin was named the Cal-Hi Sports Unsung Hero, while Barbato, with his pick six and 10 tackles, was named the Cal-Hi Sports’ Most Valuable Player.
Sacred Heart Prep (13-2) got a stellar performance from Burr-Kirven that even drew raves from Orange County Register columnist Steve Fryer. “I really like the way that kid plays, his intensity, the way he hits, the way he’s around on almost every tackle. He can definitely play at the next level.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior linebacker and running back (who a few years later was Pac12 Defensive Player of the Year at Washington) wasn’t in on every tackle but he did have a game-high 16 with one for loss, a forced fumble, and the long TD run and 78 yards rushing on offense.
Despite the loss, Sacred Heart Prep head coach Pete Lavorato, a five-time Grey Cup winner as a Canadian Football League player with his hometown Edmonton Eskimos, took the loss like a true pro.
“I’m proud of my boys and the fact they didn’t panic when we went down 21-0. All we could do was what we do all the time and that’s run the ball. We were just not able to finish things in the second half. It was frustrating. We’d get down there and then something would just happen. We haven’t turned it over that much all season, but I don’t want to say that to take anything away from them. They are a real good football team.”
As for the Sea Kings, no one can deny them the fact they are the first team to ever win 16 games in California in one season and then cap it off with a state championship, and they didn’t do it by playing less than stellar competition.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win a state title. Our players have been unbelievable all season long,” Meyer told Cal-Hi Sports. “We challenged our guys with a pretty tough non-league schedule. Once we started to win our non-league games we knew we had a shot to get to a regional bowl.”
Note: Associate editor Harold Abend wrote the Corona del Mar state championship story.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle.