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December 9, 2012
Spartans pursue 4-peat
The three-time defending CIF Open Division state champions added another line to their history of achievements on Saturday night in rolling Folsom 49-15. The Spartans' defense was able to corral the Bulldogs' spread attack and will now take a 25 game winning streak into the state bowls this week against a familiar foe in Centennial of Corona.
De La Salle scored on its first two drives and led 21-0 early in the second quarter en route to posting the impressive win over Folsom. The Spartans saw Tiapepe Vitale continue his big senior year with 123 yards and two scores and the defense tally six sacks and three interceptions. De La Salle has given up 28 points in the last 15 quarters, including 14 of those points in the fourth quarter of blowouts. The offense ended with 395 yards, but had 248 at halftime.
De La Salle
A big question heading into this one was how De La Salle would defend Folsom? The answer was rushing its front four, collapse the pocket and focus in on crossing routes and screens. The Spartans got three sacks from defensive end Austin Hooper with opposite end Victor Egu and defensive tackle Melvin Mangoba each adding one. Xavier Banks also played well in the middle. Hooper was the leader though with great size at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds. He plays at a good pad level, has burst off the line and recognizes plays well. He also had two long catch and runs for 99 total yards at tight end. He has 18 reported offers as possibly the best uncommitted prospect in the region.
Other standouts on the defense included USC commit Michael Hutchings and 3-star recruit David Moffitt. Hutchings (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) is a hard hitter who breaks down well on the ball carrier and is an asset in pass coverage. Ranked No.7 among outside linebackers in the country, he played a crossing route very well for an early interception and run back. He is a big play defender. Moffitt can be overlooked in some regards, but showcased his athleticism and coverage skills matching up at points with San Jose State bound Phillip Carter in the slot. His play allowed De La Salle to play closer to its base defense against Folsom's spread look. He is reportedly down to Arizona and Colorado.
The tone was set early when De La Salle called for a play action pass to Hooper over the middle and he rumbled down to the three yard line. Vitale took it in on the next play and the Spartans were on the board just over a minute in. Electing to receive and taking a shot early sums up the aggressive approach the Spartans took on Saturday.
Folsom is a spread passing team, but didn't have a single designed run in its 13 first quarter plays. It has had at least 20 running plays in 12 of 14 games this year. With the Spartans getting early sacks, more running plays could have offset some of the pressure. It doesn't change the outcome, but it was a noticeable strategy.
Sophomore Jake Browning faced constant pressure and crowded passing lanes to end up 38-for-64 for 284 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He did set the passing record for a season, according to the state record book. Junior Rodney Ellison finished with a game high 150 yards. The Bulldogs weren't able to get much run after the catch against a good tackling De La Salle squad in settling for 4.3 yards per attempt.
Despite giving up 49 points, Folsom's defense had its moments in defending De La Salle's run game. Five De La Salle drives started at midfield or better resulting in 22 points while forcing a fumble and a turnover on downs in the red zone. Two big pass plays to Hooper were crucial, but the Bulldogs settled in some after the first two drives.
De La Salle will meet Centennial after winning the 2007 Division I state title over the Huskies. It lost the rematch in 2008. Both games were decided by less than a touchdown as the Spartans go in as the early favorite with back-to-back dominating performances.