WHAT: CIF State Football Championship Division I Bowl GameWHEN:
Saturday, Dec. 15
WHERE: Home Depot Center, Carson (Calif.)
TEAMS: De La Salle-Concord Spartans (12-0) vs. Centennial-Corona Huskies (13-1)
RANKINGS: De La Salle: No. 2 overall in the state (MaxPreps.com); No. 1 overall in the state (CalHiSports.com) and No. 3 in the nation (USA Today), No. 6 in the nation (MaxPreps and Rivals.com). Centennial: No. 1 in the state (MaxPreps.com); No. 2 in the state (CalHiSports.com) and No. 3 in the nation (MaxPreps), No. 14 in the nation (USA Today) and No. 16 in the nation (Rivals).
POINTS: De La Salle 571 (47.5 per game), Centennial 665 (47.5 ppg).
POINTS ALLOWED: De La Salle 119 (9.9 ppg), Centennial 215 (15.3 ppg).
TOP RUSHERS: De La Salle - Tito Pica (113-1,245-17 TD) and Kylan Butler (102-928-20 TD). Centennial - Ryan Bass (309-2,472-45 TD) and Matt Scott (114-1,010-13 TD).
TOP PASSERS: De La Salle - Mike MacGillivray (68-49-1,117-18 TD). Centennial: Matt Scott (267-163-2,326-17 TD).
TOP RECEIVERS: De La Salle - Michael Czyz (30-885-16 TD). Centennial - Marsel Posey (71-854-4 TD).
COMPLETE TEAM STATS: De La Salle - Click here. Centennial - Click here.
DE LA SALLE KEY: Discipline on defense and keeping pace with Centennial's spread offense.
CENTENNIAL KEY: Avoiding penalties and De La Salle "mystique."
PREDICTED SCORE: De La Salle 31, Centennial 28.
OTHER GAME PREVIEWS: Division III, Central Catholic vs. St. Bonaventure; Division II, Novato vs. Oceanside
TELEVISION: All games will be broadcast live on FSN Prime Ticket (Southern California) and FSN Bay Area (Northern California), with the lone exception Division III which will be shown live on FSN Bay Area Plus, available on satellite or digital cable.
LIVE AUDIO: Live audio and written play-by-play also will be available on the internet for all three games at www.kbcsports.com and www.cifstate.org.
OTHER EVENTS: California State High School Cheerleading and Dance Championships; High School Football Coaches Clinic featuring San Jose State coach Dick Tomey. Go to www.cifstate.org for more information.
TICKETS: Home Depot Center Box Office, local TicketMaster outlets or ticketmaster.com. Costs are $15 for adults, $8 for high school students (with a valid ASB card), seniors (60+) and children. All tickets general admission seating and valid for all three games.
By Mitch Stephens
CARSON, Calif. - De La Salle football coach Bob Ladouceur and Centennial coach Matt Logan had not met before Monday's press conference at the Home Depot Center.
But they each shared a similar defining and angry moment that helped re-route their football teams to California's pinnacle contest on Saturday, the CIF Division I Bowl Game.
Ladouceur, the already legendary coach at age 52 who has guided the Spartans to a remarkable 331-20-3 record and five mythical national championships since 1979, walked briskly off the Home Depot Center floor a year ago after what he termed an "embarrassing" 27-13 loss to Canyon Country in the CIF State Division I Bowl game.
Ladouceur wasn't upset that his team lost, but more so how they competed. He was so angry he actually declined comment immediately after the game, a first in his sterling 27-year career.
It was only the fifth time his season ended with a defeat and first since 1991.
"I can live with losses as long as we compete and play to our level," he said. "Canyon just played harder than us and deserved to win. I was so angry with how we played. I was disappointed with the kids, with me and our staff.
"I felt we came into the game physically and emotionally flat. . I could feel it the moment we stepped on the field. There was no fire."
But the stepping off point is what's important here.
The loss festered with the Spartans the entire off-season.
"It definitely brought us back to earth," said junior tailback Kylan Butler. "Every workout was a little more pointed. We were more focused."
On a coaching level, Ladouceur, whose basic but precise veer option attack has been nearly unstoppable for close to three decades, needed a tweak.
Opponents, such as Canyon, brought eight and nine in the box and dared the Spartans to pass.
Ladouceur added a spread feature, a shot gun formation and rotating quarterbacks.
The additions have been nearly lethal as the Spartans combined their usual potent rushing game (447 team carries, 3,370 yards and 50 touchdowns) with a remarkably efficient and quick-striking passing game (87 of 124 passes (70 percent) for 1,848 yards, 27 touchdowns and just three interceptions).
"We kicked some things around in the off-season and hopefully we'll come into Saturday's game with a different light," Ladouceur said. "We better because this is the best team we've faced for sure."
Centennial has been nails and among the top-ranked teams nationally all year.
With two of the best offensive weapons in the state, running back Ryan Bass (2,472 yards rushing, 45 touchdowns) and quarterback Matt Scott (3,336 total yards, 30 TDs), the Huskies have piled up huge offensive numbers at a rate of 47.5 points per game (coincidentally that's the exact average as De La Salle).
The duo is committed to the University of Arizona.
But it was the team's only defeat that caused Logan and the Huskies to do some re-evaluating. For Logan it was "leave well enough alone."
"We over-coached," he said of his team's 51-37 loss to Mater Dei-Santa Ana on Oct. 4. "We put in too much stuff instead of letting the kids play."
Obviously, the reference was to the team's defense.
The offense put up a remarkable 679 yards that night but lost by two touchdowns in the single-greatest combined offensive output in state history.
"The defense definitely took it personally," said Logan, who after the game, much like Ladouceur at last year's state championship was too angry to speak. In this case, he was angry with himself. "We've let them loose a little, kept things simple and the results have been good."
Since that defeat, the Huskies have won eight straight and given up just 73 points (9.1 per game). They haven't given up more than two scores in any game.
"That (the loss to Mater Dei) was embarrassing," said Centennial linebacker Jerry Hardeman, who returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown in last week's 42-7 win over Santiago-Corona in the Southern Section Inland championship game. "People thought our defense was soft."
They're going to have to play hard and smart to slow down the Spartans, but the Huskies have the personnel to do it.
Their 3-4 alignment features superb linebackers in Hardeman (6-0, 215), Vontaze Burfict (130 tackles) and Shelly Lyons (6-1, 230), all college prospects.
Burfict (6-2, 235) is considered one of the top junior linebackers in the state, if not the country. Defensive back Kenneth Anderson (5-11, 170) is having an All-State type year with 99 tackles and eight interceptions.
"We have not seen much veer option offense," Logan said. "They come off the ball so well...we haven't seen anything like the speed and precision in which they execute.
"We are undersized from a defensive standpoint, but our linebackers are oversized. It's not too often you see two linebackers in the middle weighing 230 pounds that can run like these guys."
They hope not to be running after the strong duo of Tito Pica (1,245 yards, 17 TDs), a state wrestler, and Butler (928, 20), who are both somewhat undersized, but run low to the ground and are strong and elusive.
The quarterback set of Mike MacGillivray (5-11, 182) and junior Blake Wayne (5-9, 161) are both dangerous. MacGillivray is a pinpoint passer and Wayne, with superb feet, runs the option to near perfection. Both are more than adequate in the other areas.
Ladouceur has never rotated quarterbacks and wasn't planning to.
"I told them before the season that whoever moved the ball better would win the job," Ladouceur said. "But they both did and it's worked out best for us."
The chief beneficiary of the team's passing game is small but fleet Michael Czyz, a 5-8, 157-pound senior who has just 30 catches, but for 885 yards (29.5 average) and 16 touchdowns.
Ladouceur's biggest concern is how to slow down the Huskies, whose no-huddle spread attack may be the most lethal offense in the state.
"The success of the spread is based on the quarterback and the running back and they have two of the best at their positions," Ladouceur said. "What they do isn't so complicated but they do it better than anyone. Hopefully we'll make some stops."
Bass (5-10, 205) is an absolutely workhorse who has carried as many times as 51 times in a game (last year) and 43 this season for 326 yards and four TDs against Mater Dei. In his first start as a sophomore, Bass exploded with a 416-yard, six-touchdown performance. Heading into Saturday's game, he's rushed for 6,338 career yards and scored 99 TDs.
When Santiago shut down Bass last week (14 rushes, 44 yards), Scott (6-3, 205) dominated with a combined four touchdowns and 236 total yards.
If the Spartans can clog the run, Scott to Marsel Posey (71 catches, 854 yards, four TDs) is a dangerous passing combination.
"They use all 54 yards of the field sideline to sideline and that's tough to defend." Ladouceur said.
The Spartans' starting defense, coached by Terry Eidson, has allowed just two touchdowns all year and is led by third-year starting inside linebacker Brady Amack.
The secondary might be the defense's strength with Graylon Sanders, Blair Wishom and Noah Perio, who had three interceptions in the team's 37-0 win over California for De La Salle's 16th straight North Coast Section crown.
"We're facing the most storied high school football program in the nation," said Logan, whose team is 91-14 since 2000 and winners of four section titles. "It's a great opportunity for us. Hopefully we'll seize the moment."
E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com. Cal-Hi Sports managing editor Ronnie Flores contributed to this report.