PLEASANT HILL, Calif. – The De La Salle Spartans went for broke and Davonte Gilmore broke their heart.
The senior defensive lineman made a spectacular open field tackle to give Lakeland (Fla.) an epic 31-30 overtime win Friday night in a battle of traditional national powers at Diablo Valley College.
Extra fleet Javares McRoy (7 catches, 102 yards, two touchdowns) scored on a beautifully designed 10-yard reverse to open the overtime and an extra point by Thomas Dietert put Lakeland up 31-24.
After a procedure call, De Le Salle quarterback Scott Herting found Bo Walter over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown and after two timeouts, the Spartans (1-2) went for a game-deciding 2-point conversion.
"I always feel if we're in that position to go for it," De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur said. "I had confidence in my guys."
Herting fed Tyler Anderson with a perfect veer pitch and the speedy back who earlier scored on a 52-yard run in regulation appeared to have a lane for the goal line and the win.
But Gilmore, a 6-3, 175-pound senior closed quickly, met Anderson face-to-face and threw him down one-yard short. After traveling more than 3,000 miles, the Dreadnaughts weren't going to let the game go another 36 inches.
"We came 3,000 miles and beat one of the best football programs anywhere," Lakeland coach Bill Castle said. "You better believe I feel good about that."
It was a breathtaking finish to a 3-hour and 40-minute nationally-televised marathon marred by an injury, plus 17 penalties for 140 yards by
(3-0), No. 23 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings.
The game was delayed 25 minutes early in the fourth quarter to attend to injured Lakeland junior defensive lineman Tedward Hamilton, who left the stadium by ambulance with an apparent back or neck injury.
He was blindsided with a block trailing a 12-yard run up the middle by Anderson that put the ball first-and-goal at the 8.
Hamilton was awake and moving his toes and eyes. His forehead was taped to a stretcher before taken to the ambulance.
That brought an exciting game to an emotional and screeching halt. After the break, somehow the Lakeland defensive pulled off a stand and the Spartans (1-2) had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Preston Lyon to put them ahead 24-21.
The Dreadnaughts then moved methodically down field behind superb Florida State-bound quarterback Jarred Haggins (12 for 18, 169 yards). His perfectly-placed 34-yard fade to McRoy set up a 39-yard field goal by Dietert with 3:27 left.
Neither team really threatened the rest of regulation.
"I wasn't disatisfied with how we played," Ladouceur said. "Consider how we played last time, this was a lot of improvement. We still have a long way to go."
It looked like a very long night for De La Salle as Lakeland scored twice in the first 6:10 on a pretty 15-yard fade from Haggins to McRoy and a 53-yard interception return by linebacker Quayshawn Nealy.
But the Dreadnaughts, the six-time Florida state champions, committed 11 penalties (100 yards) and two turnovers over the next 14 minutes.
"We kind of came unraveled there for a while," Castle said. "Our kids got frustrated with all the penalties. We lost our poise. But I give them credit for regrouping in the second half. We played with a lot of poise."
De La Salle, the six-time mythical national champion, took advantage, scoring 21 unanswered points on touchdown runs of 1, 52 and 8 yards by Terron Ward, Anderson and quarterback Herting, respectively, to take a 21-14 lead.
Haggins then led a 50-yard drive, finished off with a 10-yard TD pass to McRoy with 3.5 seconds left in the half. McRoy took a short out and then somehow beat three defenders to the pylon, making it 21-21 at halftime.
"(Haggins) is a real dangerous kid," Ladouceur said. "He can hurt you with the running or the passing. He really throws a good ball."
Lakeland, which had three turnovers, finished with 326 yards to 242 for De La Salle. The Dreadnaughts shifty tailback Ben McRoy had 71 yards on nine carries to lead the running game.
De La Salle, which came in averaging just 144 yards per game, showed some signs of life offensively, rushing for 190 almost evenly divided between Anderson (13-70), Ward (15-62) and Herting (13-58).
The game was a terrific battle between legendary coaches. Lakeland’s Bill Castle just coached in his 400th game and now has 326 wins. De La Salle’s Bob Ladouceur is No. 2 in California history with 345 wins against just 24 losses and three ties.
Ladouceur made the gutsy call to go for two. But Castle’s defensive lineman made the play of the game to finish it.
Lakeland linebackers William Lucas (nine tackles) and Nealy (eight) were as good as advertised as was teammate Xavier Mothersill (nine tackles).
Lineman Dino Waldren had eight tackles for the Spartans, while teammate Ken Egu added five tackles and a fumble recovery and Dylan Wynn added a sack, four tackles and a fumble recover.
"This is one of the best events we've ever been to," Castle said. "Everything was first rate. Win or lose, this would have been a great trip."
Senior writer Kevin Askeland contributed to this report.
Lakeland 31, De La Salle 30 (OT)
Lakeland 14 7 0 3 7 - 31
De La Salle 7 14 0 3 6 - 30
L - J. McRoy 16 pass from Haggins (Dietert kick), 6:45
L - Nealy 53 interception return (Dietert kick), 5:50
DLS - Ward 1 run (Lyon kick), 2:09
DLS - Anderson 52 run (Lyon kick), 10:23
DLS - Herting 8 run (Lyon kick), 5:45
L - J. McRoy 10 pass from Haggins (Dietert kick), 3.5
DLS - FG, Lyon 32, 9:01
L - FG, Dietert 39, 3:27
L - J. McRoy 10 run (Dietert kick)
DLS - Walter 15 pass from Hertin (run failed)
Rushing: Lakeland 34-157, De La Salle 41-190
Passing: L 12-17--0-169, DLS 5-11-1-52
Total yards: L 326, DLS 242
Fumbles/lost: L 3/3, DLS 3/1
Turnovers: L 3, DLS 2
Penalties: L 17-145, DLS 4-30
RUSHING - L: B. McRoy 9-71, Haggins 16-52, J McRoy 2-1, Watson 7-33. DLS: Anderson 13-70, Ward 15-62, Hertin 13-58.
PASSING: L: Haggins 12-17-0-169; DLS: Hertin 5-11-1-52.
RECEIVING: L: J. McRoy 7-110, Brewster 4-51, Hicks 1-8. DLS: Williams 1-13, Laird 1-13, Walter 1-11, Butler 1-8, Ward 1-8.
Records: Lakeland 3-0, De La Salle 1-2.
Ten 10 takes from Lakeland-De La Salle game
1. Our hearts and prayers go out to Hamilton and his family. We'll try to keep you posted on his condition today.
2. An assistant Lakeland coach in the press booth had two telling statements while Hamilton was being attended to. One, "I can't imagine how helpless his family feels right now watching this on TV 3,000 miles away." And two, "Where is the ambulance? We are required to have at least one ambulance at every Florida high school football game." It took 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at DVC.
3. Ladouceur's decision to go for two will raise some eyebrows, but it's been in his nature for 31 years to go for broke. And he's had a pretty fair career. Plus, 3 hours and 30 minutes is entirely too long for any football game, especially a high school tussle. It was 1:30 a.m. Florida time for sleep's sake. Glad things were decided one way or another.
4. Javares McRoy is explosive fast and the Spartans, a very good defensive team, were deemed pretty much defenseless trying to stop him. Only a junior, I'm sure his performance seriously raised his recruiting stock.
5. De La Salle running back Terron Ward described Jarred Haggins as a young Michael Vick after watching him in film. Though certainly a fine scramble - De La Salle did a very good job "holding him to 52 yards in 16 carries - Haggins strong and accurate arm was more like a young Peyton Manning. He dropped in at least four 30-to-50-yard fade patterns right in the bucket. He had a sure 90-yard TD bomb dropped by McRoy (his only miscue of the night) and at least three other passes dropped. He threw every kind of pass. His numbers could have easily closed in on 300 yards instead of the pedestrian 169 he finished with.
6. Without the penalties and three fumble losses - certainly part of the game - Lakeland was probably a couple touchdowns better than the Spartans.
7. Though Monte Vista (Danville) will give De La Salle a very good game, the Spartans' streak of not losing to a Northern California team looks safe yet another season - this would be the 18th.
8. De La Salle finally found a rhythm to its offense. It's been the longest, most frustrating drought of Ladouceur's career. Though 242 yards is normally De La Salle's halftime number, they won't be facing a defense that closes as fast as Lakeland. Several eight-to-12-yard gains Friday will go the distance in the East Bay Athletic League.
9. Both head coaches, both who run the offenses, showed some fantastic wrinkles. Castle's reverse call on the first play of overtime was fantastic - McRoy could have walked in. Ladouceur's play-action call and TD pass from Herting to Walter was also superb. He also implemented some quick formations and hard counts that drew Lakeland offsides at least twice and led to one touchdown. The coaching battle was equally epic to the even game on the field.
10. Both teams should take major positives away from this game, which is always good. De La Salle showed considerable moxie, falling behind 14-0 against a superior well-coached team and fighting back. You could hear the murmurs in the crowd as if to say - "oh no, here comes the Bosco game again." But they manned up and made more than a game of it. They helped create an epic. Lakeland did likewise, taking away all that De La Salle momentum with the last drive of the first half. And the last play of the game by Gilmore absolute personified Lakeland's "we're not going home without a victory" attitude. It was if he said, "oh no you don't," and he just dropped a very skilled, fast and elusive back.After the play Gilmore laid flat on his back and appeared to be hurt. But eventually he got up and just appeared utterly spent, which after 225 minutes of football was understandable.