As one all-consuming, heart-palpitating high school football game came to a close late Saturday night, an equally relentless groundswell of human hyperbole and conjecture immediately began to grow.
And grow. And grow. And grow.
One gander at the 65-thread exchange
following our De La Salle's
28-14 victory over Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)
game story reveals a metamorphosis of true confliction.
While those glued to the action either on their television sets or live at Owen Owens field wondered all night who would pull out the showdown between national powers, the moment the final seconds ticked and De La Salle prevailed, another entity entered the fray. Grant (Sacramento, Calif.)
Who would prevail, everyone wanted to know, if De La Salle, the 2007 and 2009 California State Open Division champion, played Grant, the 2008 Open Division champ?
And more to the point, which team will the CIF commissioners pick to represent Northern California in the Open Division – the top division: Grant or De La Salle?
Grant is currently No. 3 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 human national rankings and No. 10 in the MaxPreps Freeman computerized rankings
. De La Salle is No. 20 and 14, respectively.
Oh how the world – especially the sporting world – loves a debate. “Grant…is much better than (De La Salle) on both sides of the ball,” Eligah wrote on the thread. “If Grant and DLS played…Grant would beat DLS by at least three touchdowns. Grant’s defense would eat DLS’s offense alive.” Said DLS backer Darren: “Grant may make a game of it, but it is doubtful they have what it takes to win when it is a tough game situation. Talent alone doesn’t win games.” Said DLS masher Matthew: “DLS never faced a team like Grant, the size, the speed, the pride, the determination, the experience, the composure, the athletics. DLS has one of the best programs in the world and I have a lot of respect, but stop living in the past, Grant is a whole new level. DLS is no longer king of NorCal.” Said DLS historian Chris: “DLS hasn't played anyone like Grant? You first ought to give (Bishop Gorman) some credit. … DLS has also scheduled (Long Beach Poly), Mater Dei, Mission Viejo, St. Louis (Ha.) Don Bosco (N.J.), Lakeland (Fla.), Bellevue (Wash.) and (Evangel Christian, La.) in recent years., among many others. … Grant is an excellent team, but take exception to you suggesting DLS plays powder puffs.”
First point: Though I couldn’t find anything in the rulebook, I’m fairly certain a game misconduct would be in order for consumption of any player, let alone an entire offense.
Second point: Ahhhhhhhh!
We have 10 more weeks of this ping-pong ding-dong.
Though astute that these avid fans see the writing on the wall – that it’s about 98 percent chance that the two powers will win out and the commissioners from the 10 sections will need to pick between them - why in the name of headaches and overkill start this debate now?
At least wait until the playoffs, which are two months off.
But since it’s out there and yes, I’ve seen both teams – Grant during its ultra impressive 49-14 season-opening victory over then No. 24 Folsom (Calif.)
and De La Salle’s win over Gorman, here’s is my best, dare I say, sure-fire, mark-it-in-the-books, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt guess: Grant 21, De La Salle 20
A two-point conversion try by the Spartans in the waning moments is run down at the pylon by Grant's Shaq Thompson
How’s that for decisiveness and detail? But what does it mean?
All that matters is A, both teams win out to put the decision in CIF state commissioner's noggins.
And B, if all shakes out accordingly, I see those 10 folks assessing it this way: Each team will have a single signature win over a nationally-ranked opponent. Grant over Folsom and De La Salle over Gorman. Grant’s win was more decisive. Period. Done.
Grant (Open), De La Salle (Division I).
Of course, so much can happen between now and the middle of December. Injuries to top-tier players for instance. Sloppy fields acting as a great equalizers. Defenses eating offenses.
As vehemently as coaches preach against it, teens read these silly speculation pieces.
That said, both of these coaching staffs have shown over the years to keep their players on the straight and narrow. Working in the Bay Area, I know the De La Salle staff and program much better than Grant, but my recent experience not just with the Grant staff, but its players, this group is extremely mature and focused.
When they dominated Folsom, in one of the most anticipated games in Sac-Joaquin Section history, the Pacers seemed neither giddy or satisfied. They were calm and methoical in their approach. The carried just the right tone.
I don’t see them losing in section play.
Same for De La Salle.
The Spartans haven't lost a North Coast Section game in almost 20 years. Forget the proven masterminds, De La Salle’s senior leaders led by Division I defenders Blake Renaud
and Dylan Wynn
along with junior quarterback Bart Houston
are nose-to-the-grindstone sorts.
The Spartans aren’t losing either. They have way too much toughness, talent and sheer tenacity as they showed in the win over Gorman.
Gorman reminded me a lot of Grant. Great big line. Hard hitters. Ball-control offense. Both are led even by absolutely junior super studs named Shaq – Gorman’s Powell and Grant’s Thompson, both of whom I truly predict by the time they graduate will be among the top five players I've seen in 27 years on the high school beat.
They are that good.
For most of the night, Gorman looked in control against De La Salle. The Gaels controlled the lines, the clock, the ball and even the lead.
But De La Salle found a way to win. A special team’s touchdown to open the game and a turnover and one-play strike for another score kept them knotted.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Spartans dominated. Suddenly Gorman’s size advantage was dwarfed to rubbish.
So would that happen against Grant?
Remarkably, the Pacers are a tad larger than Gorman, and a tad more physical. Most important, the Pacers are a lot more experienced which at this age means a lot more confident. And frankly, confidence and swagger goes a long way in high school football.
The entire Grant defense, which had eight shutouts in 2009, returned from last year, including one of the nation's top recruit, 6-foot-3, 340-pound tackle Villiami "Tiny" Moala
. Many of them played and even starred in the state title game against Poly as sophomores. If the Poly mojo in Southern California didn’t rattle them, either would the very real De La Salle mystique.
That’s why I would give the Pacers that slight edge.
Then again, betting against a Bob Ladouceur/Terry Eidson-coached team is just 93 percent stupid. They’ve won 357 games, lost 25 and tied three.
That’s stupid good.
What’s more stupid is that we shouldn’t even be debating. This game should have been played this season.
Grant coach Mike Alberghini confirmed to me last November and
re-interated today that De La Salle approached the Pacers for a 2010 and
2011 home-and-home series. He declined, he said, because promoters
approached him for a San Diego showcase event that would have conflicted
and pitted the Pacers against Glenville (Ohio), which is currently
ranked No. 15 in the country.
Alberghini said the allure of
that, exposing his boys to a new part of the world, and playing on
national television was too good to pass up. “We’ll get a deal done with
De La Salle,” he told me at the time.
Unfortunately, the San Diego showcase fell through in March and the game now everyone wants to see will never happen.
Tuesday morning, Alberghini said all the talk - and there's plenty of
it - that Grant and De La Salle have ducked one another is hogwash. Well,
the word he used was "unfounded," but the annoyance in his voice sounded
more like "hogwash."
"I know we've never run away from
competition and certainly De La Salle hasn't run away from it either,"
he said. "Look, we've tried to schedule games with them and it wasn't
the right timing for them and last year when they came to us it wasn't
right timing for us. It's no one's fault. At same point the timing will
Alberghini admitted "as a red-blooded Italian there
were times I felt we were a little snubbed. But Bob (coach Ladouceur)
and I have never talked. Again, I don't think they were avoiding us, but
it wasn't the right timing for them. Last year coming into this season
was good timing for them, but we had a commitment. When it fell through I
just felt it was too late in the game to ask them to change.
would have been a great year to play. For both teams. I'm sure it would have
been an electric game and atmosphere. It just didn't work out."
said he'd prefer to play De La Salle at the end of season - in a
Northern California playoff setting - rather than early on. But the CIF
playoff structure is not set up that way. Each of the 10 sections claim
champions and those are thrown into a pool for the commissioners to then
pick the Bowl representatives.
"It (playing early) is kind of like eating the dessert before dinner," Alberghini said.
He did offer this one tasty morsel for when the two programs do meet, whenever that will be.
have nothing but respect for (De La Salle's) program and all they've
accomplished," said Alberghini, who won 427 games as varsity baseball
coach in 18 seasons before turning the football program into a national
power (his football record is 208-33). "I know how hard it is to
maintain that high level for such a long time. But we're not beneath
them. Over the last 10 years or so I'd say it would be 50-50 had we
played. Hopefully we'll get that chance some day soon."
months, players from De La Salle and Grant will actually be rooting for
each other as NorCal brethren, fighting off their dreaded rivals from
And if you think the De La Salle/Grant debate is fierce, what’s brewing in Southern California could be more rabid. Nationally-ranked Servite (Anaheim)
, Westlake (Westlake Village)
, Mission Viejo
and Centennial (Corona)
will likely all fight it out for two spots meaning two will be left out.
If De La Salle were to get the nod over Grant for the Open spot, that would probably work out better for Northern California.
A lineup of De La Salle (Open), the Central Coast Open champion at Division I (impressive Valley Christian (San Jose)
and Bellarmine (San Jose)
are the two top contenders now) and Grant at Division II (its enrollment size) would be formidable.
But don’t count on that. Don’t count on anything at this point. There’s simply too much time to play.
And too much time to debate.