OPEN DIVISIONDe La Salle (Concord) 12-1 vs. Westlake (Westlake Village) 14-0
at Home Depot Center, 8 p.m. Saturday.
FACTS AND STATSRankings - De La Salle:
Nationally, No. 19 by MaxPreps; No. 11 by ESPN; No. 9 by USA Today. State, No. 5 by MaxPreps computer, No. 1 by ESPN CalHiSports; Westlake:
Nationally, No. 7 by MaxPreps; No. 13 by ESPN; No. 19 by USA Today; State, No. 1 by MaxPreps (computer), No. 2 by ESPN CalHiSports.Notable alums – De La Salle:
Amani Toomer (NFL), Maurice Jones-Drew (NFL), Brent Barry (NBA), D.J. Williams (NFL). Westlake
: Cobi Jones (retired soccer player), Mike Lieberthal (retired All-Star catcher), Phillip Seuss (Grandson of famous poet Dr. Seuss), Eric Wynalda (retired soccer player).
Leading rushers – De La Salle: Tiapepe Vitale
(166 rushes, 1180 yards, 18 TDs). Westlake: Dashon Hunt
(119-1,231-18), Justin Moore
(110-1052-13).Leading passer – De La Salle: Bart Houston
(92-for-159, 1818 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs). Westlake:
Moore (157-241-2,323-27-4).Leading receiver – De La Salle: Anthony Williams
(38 catches, 921 yards, 10 TDs). Westlake: Cody Tuttle
(32-449-4), Connor Cook
(19-429-10).Points per game (allowed):
De La Salle 40.4 (8.5). Westlake 47.6 (14.5).
The first-timer takes on the old grizzled veteran of the CIF Bowl Championships when Westlake takes on De La Salle in the premier game at 8 p.m. Saturday.
De La Salle makes its sixth appearance in six years – no other school has been here more than twice – while Westlake will play on the field of the Home Depot Center for the very first time.
But don't get the idea that Westlake isn't battle tested. Au contraire.
The Warriors come out of one of the toughest leagues in the state, if not the nation, in the Marmonte League, and have tangled with the likes of St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian – two nationally known programs – along with regional powers Thousand Oaks and Moorpark for years.
They had to beat Oaks Christian twice, including 49-42 in the Southern Section finals, and opened the season with a 30-27 overtime win over Division II Bowl representative Del Oro-Loomis to open the season.
Yes, these Warriors are battle-tested.
"We played in one of the top leagues in Southern California," Westlake quarterback Justin Moore told the Ventura County Star. "We competed against teams like St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian and proved that we belong in a bowl game."
Longtime Westlake coach and understated Jim Benkert said a Bowl Game wasn't really on his team's radar. Beating Oaks Christian a second time and powering through to win the Warriors' second Southern Section title in three years and fourth overall was.
"To be honest, we've never listed going to state among our goals," Benkert told the Ventura County Star. "We want to win the Marmonte League championship, and win the CIF-SS championship. The section title is absolutely our No. 1 priority.
"But kids being kids, I'm sure they want to go to a bowl game, too. They hear all the talk and they want to be part of the excitement."
No more exciting than facing one of the nation's most renowned programs in De La Salle, owners of perhaps the country's most remarkable national records: A 151-game win streak from 1992 to 2004.
The Spartans have won at least six mythical national championships, and with a 49-13 victory over San Ramon Valley-Danville on Saturday, they captured their 20th-straight North Coast Section crown and 27th overall. Bob Ladouceur, the state's career leader in wins, has a record of 382-25-3.
Though De La Salle had a bumpy road early, including its only loss of the season, 30-6 at national power St. Thomas Aquinas-Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Spartans come in with 10 straight wins having outscored those opponents 458-57.
"I think we're in a good spot," Ladouceur said. "Our defense plays well. I know we're going to play a team that's got a lot of speed and is very athletic, but I like our chances. We'll give it a whirl."DE LA SALLE OFFENSE vs. WESTLAKE DEFENSE
De La Salle struggled early largely because it was trying to find a consistent, healthy running back and Wisconsin-bound quarterback Bart Houston admittedly tried to do too much. But Houston has found his rhythm in De La Salle's vaunted veer attack. He's accounted for 32 touchdowns, rushing for 17 and throwing for 15 more.
When De La Salle's offense is clicking, Houston doesn't have to do too much, which he tried to do in the first three games. He's a third-year starter and De La Salle is 37-1 in games he has started.
The Spartans have lacked the breakaway back they've possessed in the past but Vitale, a 5-foot-10, 196-pound junior, exploded for 178 yards rushing and six touchdowns in the win over San Ramon Valley. Returners Joseph Te'O
, coming back from knee surgery, and David Riopelle
are other go-to backs.
"(Vitale) is getting better every game," Houston said. "He's worked so hard to get to this point."
The game-breaker for the Spartans is 6-foot, 185-pound senior receiver Anthony Williams, brother of former NFL receiver Demetrius Williams.
The key to all De La Salle offenses is up front with a small, but explosive, offensive line, this year led by two-way star Luc Hamilton
With Westlake's big offensive numbers, its stout defense sometimes gets overlooked. In 10 of the Warriors' 14 games, they allowed two touchdowns or less and most of those were late in blowout wins. Senior inside linebacker David Ortiz
(6-2, 200) leads the way with 85 tackles and outside linebacker Devin Ray
(5-10, 175) had 82. Justin Solis
, a 6-3, 295-pound senior, is Westlake's leader on the line with 67 tackles and seven sacks.
In the secondary, Hunt, though known now more for his offensive exploits, was first recruited as a cornerback. The UCLA-bound star has six interceptions and has returned two for touchdowns. He'll likely be lined up often against Williams.
WESTLAKE OFFENSE vs. DE LA SALLE DEFENSE
Speaking of Hunt, he's turned into a bona fide game-breaker as he showed in the Southern Section title game with five touchdowns. At 5-9, 175 pounds, he's remarkably quick and stronger than most think. He and quarterback Justin Moore (5-11, 175) give Westlake a remarkably quick tandem with quick-strike capability.
Moore makes everything go and is a terrific dual threat as a 2,000-plus-yard passer and 1,000-yard runner.
The best part about his passing is his ability to use different threats, as six receivers have at least 17 catches. Though Tuttle is his top target, undoubtedly Moore's No. 1 deep threat is Cook, who averages 22.5 yards per catch and more than every other reception is a touchdown.
The no-huddle, spread attack has been good for almost 50 points per game with a low point-total of 30 in Westlake's season-opening win against Del Oro.
The team was just getting to know each other after losing 3,000-yard passer Nick Isham and 1,000-yard rusher Tavior Mowry to graduation. But Moore and Hunt fit into those spots quickly and Westlake went on to score more than 60 points three times.
Like De La Salle, the team's strength is considered its offensive line, led by center Jordie Hannel
(6-2, 250). The line is much larger than De La Salle's and skilled. They also include: tackles Keith Ramljak
(6-4, 265) and Tony Mekari
(6-3, 250) and guards Javier Aguilera
(6-3, 345) and Anthony Davanzo
"They have a lot of weapons, their skill guys are very explosive and the line is first rate," De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson said. "We'll have our work cut out."
De La Salle's defense likes the work and the challenge. Considered the team's strength and one of best in school history, the Spartans gave up their first defensive touchdowns in five games against San Ramon Valley.
They are led by a linebacker core that Eidson said could be his most talented. Cal-bound Michael Barton
(6-foot, 215) and juniors Michael Hutchings
(6-1, 203) and David Moffitt
(6-2, 200) are fast, lean and hard-hitting.
Add in an effective defensive line led by Hamilton, Chris Olinger
(6-2, 210), Justin Walker
(6-foot, 205) and perhaps the player with the most upside, Austin Hooper
(6-4, 233), and a stellar secondary, led by Williams and Joshua Jenkins
(6-0, 184) and this will be likely Westlake's stiffest challenge on offense.EXTRA POINTS
A truly significant blow to Westlake's cause occurred last week when 6-3, 210-pound senior kicker Alex Ball
tore his ACL. He's out. Ball is a lethal weapon and may just be the best kicker in the country with 19 field goals, 81 extra points and 90 touchbacks in 107 kickoffs… Hannel owns a 4.7 grade point average and scored 2,320 out of a possible 2,400 on his SAT exam. "He's basically a genius," Benkert told Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times… De La Salle hasn't lost to a Northern California opponent in 20 years, a span of 223 games. The Spartans are 221-0-2 in that span against NorCal teams… The Spartans are 3-2 in Bowl Games thus far, having defeated Servite-Anaheim 48-8 last season and Crenshaw-Los Angeles 28-14 the season before.