PLEASANT HILL, Calif. —
The direction to slow Folsom
quarterback Jake Browning
was clear and simple from De La Salle (Concord)
defensive back coach Terrell Ward.
"Read the keys, play fast and play like you're taught," said the father of Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward.
The perennial national juggernauts have been good pupils for the last three decades and Saturday the Spartans passed another big test — this one against the state's best single-season passer — with another convincing 45-17 Northern California Open Regional title victory at Diablo Valley College. John Velasco
scored four more touchdowns on three runs of 6 yards and one of 1, but it was how the team's secondary bent but didn't break that keyed De La Salle's 40th straight win while extending its unbeaten streak against Northern California opponents to 250 games.
Velasco, a bullish 5-foot-7, 197-yard senior, finished with 27 carries and 144 yards and he now has 28 TDs on the year. Quarterback Chris Williams
also rushed for two scores and Antoine Custer
set up most of touchdowns with 13 carries and 149 yards.
De La Salle (14-0) goes after its fifth straight State Open Bowl title next Saturday against St. John Bosco, a 70-49 winner over Centennial, at the StubHub Depot in Carson.
Browning, who came in with 5,432 yards passing and 74 touchdowns, completed a lot of short passes, but he was held out of the end zone until the game's final seconds. He finished 38 of 53 for 336 yards but his only touchdown came on a 28-yard strike to Troy Knox
with 48 seconds left.
He was also intercepted three times, once by Washington State-bound Kevin Griffin
and twice by linebacker David Ortega
, who returned one 51 yards to set up a short Velasco touchdown.
"They did a lot of different things this year, but our coaches got us prepared," said Ortega, not 5-foot-10, 211-pound middle linebacker. "We needed our secondary to play better than last week and they did."
Of his interception and return to the 1 in the third quarter, Ortega said: "He was going after his secondary guy and I just read his eyes. ... I wanted to get to the end zone. I got a good stiff arm in. But at least we scored anyway."
Griffin's pick came in the end zone when Folsom threatened right before halftime which could have cut the score to 19-10. Instead, Griffin intercepted the ball and De La Salle scored three quick touchdowns in the third quarter to squash another fantastic season from Folsom (14-1).
Folsom (14-1) came in ranked 16th in the country and having scored 734 points. It was the same Folsom squad that came in unbeaten and nationally ranked last year and lost 49-15 at Sacramento State. The Bulldogs got a few points closer, but they were hoping for more.
"That's a real good team we beat, so other than a couple fumbles, I was very pleased with our effort," De La Salle first-year head coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “I thought we
hit real hard and our secondary was exceptional. We gave up some completions,
but we got a lot of hats to the ball.”
Browning looked a little over-amped the first series, overthrowing three receivers. De La Salle held on downs, then traveled 65 yards in eight plays capped by a 12-yard touchdown keeper by Williams. That made it 7-0 with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
De La Salle drove 59 yards on its second possession but Williams fumbled and Folsom's Tristan Trumbull recovered. The Bulldogs then had one of its best drives of the game, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Ben Trumm.
A 50-yard bomb from Williams to Marquis Morris
, set up a 1-yard Velasco touchdown making it 13-6 and after Custer returned a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Velasco went in from the 6, and De La Salle was on its way, up 19-3 with 9:11 in the second quarter.
“Those guys have been putting up Madden-type numbers, so to
not allow a touchdown until the final quarter was very pleasing," Alumbaugh said.
Folsom did put up some good numbers, but four turnovers hurt. Will McClure
caught 15 of Browning's passes for 153 yards and Knox added eight for 102. Running back Bryan Weldy
ran hard and well with 21 carries for 84 yards and a 3-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Division III
Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) 42, El Cerrito 7
Built as a David versus Goliath matchup, the Gators stunned heavily-favorite El Cerrito (12-3) behind 161 yards rushing and four touchdowns by Ben Burr-Kirven
. … Kirven, a stout linebacker, scored on runs of 9, 45, 1 and 7 yards, the 45-yarder off a fake punt as the Gators (13-1), believed too slow and not physical enough to tangle with El Cerrito, which boasts three of the top 20 senior recruits in California, pulled off the stunner. … Instead, it was SHP who was the dominant team, while also getting 96 yards rushing and a touchdown from Andrew Segre
. … SHP's final touchdown came on a 47-yard tipped pass from Mason Randall
l to Mitch Martella
. … El Cerrito, which won its first North Coast Section title last week, got its only touchdown by Adarius Pickett on a 12-yard run. … "We never doubted ourselves," said Burr-Kirven, who knocked starting quarterback Keilan Benjamin out of the game with a hard hit in the third quarter. "We knew we could win this game." … Sacred Heart Prep will play Corona del Mar (15-0) in next week's Bowl Game in Carson.