As has become routine for the Concord program, De La Salle capped the regular season at 10-0 after beating California 27-14. However, the Spartans weren't able to excel in all facets against the Grizzlies in what might not be the last meeting between these two schools.
The Spartans defense came into the season with plenty of expectations with four NCP Top 50 recruits leading the way. With Austin Hooper and Victor Egu playing bookend defensive ends and Michael Hutchings and David Mofitt at linebacker, California was held to 203 total yards. Das Tautalatasi also made a handful of plays in the secondary.
Their best work came deep in their own territory to halt any California momentum. Cal got the ball on the Spartans' 46 yard line after a short punt and forced the Grizzlies to lose a yard on the next three plays. On its next drive, Cal started on De La Salle's 42 yard line before netting a red zone interception. Cal made it into the red zone one more time in the first half, but De La Salle forced them back 12 yards en route to a missed field goal.
"Our defense was on the field a lot tonight and they did a great job," De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur said.
While the defense seems to be rounding into form as it gets healthy, the offense is looking to find its way behind the hard running of Tiapepe Vitale, who finished with 193 yards and three touchdowns. Vitale also caught a 30 yard pass on the first scoring drive and continually ran through contact in getting yards between the tackles. Tautalatasi finished with 120 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half.
However, the offense committed two third quarter turnovers, including one at the goal line, and struggled making key plays in the passing game. Leading receiver Andrew Buckley missed Friday's game, but should be back for the postseason.
"We haven't been healthy all year. We always have guys out," Ladouceur said. "(Tiapepe) ran hard and Tautalatasi ran hard, but we made too many mistakes. We're too inconsistent offensively."
De La Salle grabs the headlines from the regular season finale, but California showed it is more than capable of reaching the North Coast Section Division I finals. The Grizzlies had chances in De La Salle territory to produce more points and the defense put together a good effort for a unit which has given up some big totals this year to Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley in league play. Grizzlies' star running back Karris Johnson finished with 55 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and CJ Cornwell had seven catches for 85 yards and a late touchdown.
The Grizzlies have been ranked in the NCP Top 20 for most of the regular season and are a part of the group with Freedom and Logan among others as teams with a shot to make a section final likely against De La Salle.
"I think there are a lot of teams that are going to be good in this tournament," Ladouceur said. "Freedom, Cal, Pittsburg, any team coming out of this league (East Bay Athletic League) that qualifies can beat anyone."