With De La Salle in the anchor position, Northern California captured three state titles in 2012 after winning just one last year. The Spartans ended Saturday with a 48-28 win over Centennial after Serra and Madison were victors in Division II and III respectively.
After losing two of its first three state bowl appearances, De La Salle has won four in a row after beating Centennial 48-28. The victory is win No. 399 for head coach Bob Ladouceur, who said after the game he will make a decision on whether to return as De La Salle's head coach after the holidays. The announcement of his decision is the next big item on the prep football calendar.
"I like the way they hung in there. We struggled early. We made a lot of mistakes. A lot of turnovers. Chris was real green. He made a ton of mistakes, but he stuck with it," Ladouceur said about this season. "We were patient, he showed improvement and we played our best football the last five games."
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On the field, the Spartans raced out to a 28-0 lead thanks in part to multiple early mistakes by the Huskies. The defense, which packs four high major recruits in the front seven, held the Huskies to 28 yards (two yards per play) in the first quarter but eventually surrendered 418 yards. 308 of those came in the air from junior quarterback Robert Webber with Centennial exploiting holes on short to medium post routes. Centennial was able to spread players in all direction to create confusion in the defensive backfield while protecting Webber. The Huskies also stayed with the run (43 passes to 28 runs) a week after Folsom abandoned the run very early. De La Salle did force four turnovers to save key points.
"(Michael) Hutchings, (DJ) Moffitt, (Victor) Egu and (Austin) Hooper. They have been solid all year. Losing those guys is going to be a big hole in our defense, but we have young guys coming up we have a lot of faith in," Ladouceur said. "That's part of the reason our defense was so good. Four stout guys all evened out in the box. They know how to play football."
Despite battling injuries, senior Tiapepe Vitale and junior Das Tautalatasi combined for 264 yards. As a team, the Spartans averaged more than five yards per carry, including using the option look much more than in the regional championship game. Junior quarterback Chris Williams continued his improved play with 82 yards and a rushing touchdown while going 8-for-14 passing for 131 yards and a score. With Williams, Tautalatasi and three offensive linemen returning, this offense could be very tough from the opener next year.
"I was real proud of our offense. Last time we played against them, we didn't move the ball real well. Tonight I thought they moved the ball real well," Ladouceur said.
Division II: Serra-Gardena beats Oakdale 42-15. It is Serra's second state title in two different divisions. Oakdale trailed 42-0 before scoring the game's final 15 points. It was the first state bowl appearance for the Mustangs, who played well at points but struggled with the speed differences.
Division III: Madison beats Marin Catholic 38-35. The win secured Madison's first state title in its second appearance while Marin Catholic settled for a second CIF Division III runner-up spot. 2014 athlete Andrew Celis had 86 total yards, was very good in the return game and had two tackles for loss. He should be on more radars after this weekend.
Signal Caller standouts
Home Depot Center housed some really good quarterback play on Saturday with Cal commit and nationally ranked recruit Jared Goff and two junior signal callers from Southern California.
Goff has an impressive high school resume and capped his career with a 14-for-30 performance for 262 yards, four touchdowns and a late interception on a fourth and long throw. The 6-foot-5 Goff has excellent arm strength. He is at his best making timing throws on intermediate routes. He can move around in the pocket and picked up 20 yards in the zone read game. He missed a couple of throws on Friday, but had two very good scoring throws in the fourth quarter. The 4-star recruit has the skill set to push for early playing time in the spread attack of new Cal head coach Sonny Dykes.
Serra junior Jalen Greene is still a raw passer, but has good size and was a major weapon as a runner. He rushed for 105 yards while throwing for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 7-for-13 passing. He is a long stride runner and doesn't panic with defenders around him. The next steps in his development are improving his accuracy and becoming more comfortable working from the pocket. On Saturday though, he caused Oakdale's defense plenty of issues.
Though not the tallest player, Centennial's Webber is a good competitor with arm strength on all throws. He didn't connect on many deep balls against De La Salle, but displayed the ability to make those throws. His arm helped widen the throwing windows against the Spartans' secondary.
Offensive Line stalwarts
It was a good day for offensive line play at the state bowl games with the usual suspects and a sophomore to watch for.
Marin Catholic senior and Colorado commit Gunnar Graham has the frame to stay at tackle. He is at his best when he can quickly engage with a defender and does a nice job winning initial contact. In the Wildcats' spread offense, he plays in space quite a bit and doesn't look out of place, though he is better in close courters. He is a nice piece for new head coach Mike MacIntyre to inherit with this recruiting class.
Emerald Faletuipapai is a mammoth lineman for Serra at 6-foot-6 and 345 pounds. The 2-star prospect is a good athlete for his size, can cave in his defender when he gets engaged and has nice feet. He will move inside at the next level, but could be a nice late find. He has offers from Houston and Hawaii.
One of the top recruits on hand this weekend was Centennial left tackle and Cal commit Cameron Hunt. He rarely if ever got outright beat on Saturday night in lining up against Hooper on the majority of snaps. He has good technique, is a strong prospect and doesn't have much wasted motion. He is ranked by Rivals.com as a low end 4-star prospect.
A good young prospect to remember is De La Salle 2015 offensive guard Drew Sullivan. He is a good pull blocker from his right guard spot and has a good first step at the snap and getting to the second level. He needs to gain experience, but has a bright future. Offensive line hasn't been a spot for recruits at De La Salle in recent years.
2013 Open Division Preview
We've already mentioned what De La Salle returns on offense, but Serra looks primed to make a run at the Open Division game next year. The Cavaliers return their quarterback, 2015 running back Malik Robertson and 2014 5-star Adoree' Jackson, who is a two-way threat and will be one of the top returners on the West Coast. He had three touchdowns on Saturday. Serra also has Rivals250 watch list linebacker Dwight Williams along with 2015 linebacker prospect John Houston. To top it off, freshman linebacker Blake Wells had two interceptions.
The same train of thought was had with Santa Margarita last year, so it is much too early to give definite predictions. However, it will certainly be football fodder this spring and summer.