When I met legendary De La Salle head football coach Bob Ladouceur earlier this year during the media junket for the Sony Pictures film When The Game Stands Tall, he said he had no doubt that the timing of him stepping down was right. He said former player and assistant coach Justin Alumbaugh was ready, willing and able to add to the Spartans incredible football history.
Saturday night, Alumbaugh will lead his team into its second straight California Open Division championship game. The Spartans (13-0), who were ranked #2 in High School Football America final regular season Top 25, will face Corona Centennial, which, like De La Salle, isn’t a stranger to title games. This will be the fourth meeting between the two schools with state gold on the line. De La Salle holds a 2-1 edge with the Spartans winning the Open Division title in 2012 against the Huskies and the Division I championship in 2007. Corona Centennial’s (12-2) win over the Spartans came in 2008, which gave the school the Division I title.
De La Salle has played in every Open Division championship game since its inception in 2008. Last year, De La Salle lost to St. John Bosco in a 20-14 classic (highlights above) that stopped De La Salle’s 40 game win streak and run of four straight Open Division titles. Overall, De La Salle has won five California state titles since 2006.
The Spartans regular appearance in state championship games is due to the fact that they’ve won 261 straight against North California teams.
This year’s De La Salle team has had adversity, losing quarterback Anthony Sweeney for most of the year, along with defensive star Simba Short. Neither will play in Saturday’s championship.
Without Sweeney, De La Salle has relied on running backs Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez, both juniors, who have combined for over 3,300 yards on the ground. As a team, the Spartans have rushed for over 5,000 yards, averaging nearly ten yards per carry.
We’ll have a preview of Corona Centennial on Friday