California Open Division Bowl Game:De La Salle (Concord) (14-0) vs. Centennial (Corona) (14-1)
Rankings — De La Salle:
Nationally No. 5 by MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (human ranking), No. 5 MaxPreps Freeman (computer rankings), No. 6 USA Today, No. 4 by PrepNation.com; State, No. 2 by MaxPreps Freeman, No. 1 by Cal-Hi Sports. Centennial:
Nationally No. 15 by MaxPreps Xcellent 25, No. 4 by MaxPreps Freeman, No. 14 by USA Today, No. 14 by PrepNation.com; State, No. 1 by MaxPreps Freeman, No. 2 by Cal-Hi Sports. Notable alums — De La Salle:
Amani Toomer (former NFL receiver), Maurice Jones-Drew (NFL), Kristian Ipsen (Olympic diving medalist), Brent Barry (former NBA player), D.J. Williams (NFL). Centennial:
Vontaze Burfict (NFL), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska QB), Will Sutton (Pac-12 Defensive POY), Matt Scott (Arizona QB), Michael Eubank (Arizona State QB).
Leading rushers —
De La Salle: Tiapepe Vitale
(281 carries, 1,957 yards, 29 touchdowns); Das Tautalatasi
Centennial: Tre Watson
(156-1,450-22); Austin Renken
(163-1,199-19).Leading passers —
De La Salle: Chris Williams
(70 completions, 138 attempts, 1,339 yards, 12 touchdowns, 2 interceptions);
Centennial: Robert Webber
(229-369-3,660-38-4). Leading receivers —
De La Salle: Andrew Buckley
(33 catches, 591 yards, 7 TDs).
Centennial: Chase Krivashei
(76-1,196-9).Points per game (allowed) - De La Salle:
40.7 (11). Centennial:
By MITCH STEPHENS
This is the rubber match after these teams split two of the better Bowl games in the six-year series — De La Salle won 37-31 in 2007 and Centennial returned the favor the following year 21-16.
That said, you get the feeling these two national juggernauts might meet again down the road. Several times even. Can you hear "best out of five?" Or "best out of seven?"
Surly, high school sports dynasties run in cycles. But these are two awfully healthy programs with an abundance of continuity at the coaching ranks.
Centennial coach Matt Logan flat-out called De La Salle the pinnacle of football programs in the nation. He went on to say "(De La Salle) is the best program in the history of high school football."
De La Salle coaches have never been accused of throwing out hyperbole lightly but the one Southern California program they constantly praise and curse (when they have to game-plan against them) is Centennial.
"This is exactly what you want in your final game — a great test," De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson said.
De La Salle has won the last three Open Division Bowl games, the last two in big fashion, dominating two Top 10 nationally ranked teams in Servite (48-9) and Westlake (35-0).
Last year's De La Salle team was led by one of its greatest defensive squads ever, and the 2012 version is very close with four Division I recruit seniors. The Spartans have been spotty offensively with first-year quarterback Chris Williams, but he and his teammates have looked razor sharp in back-to-back wins over state-ranked squads James Logan-Union City (52-7) and Folsom (49-15)
It's been a magical year for Centennial, which lost five potential defensive starters before the season even began with torn ACLs. "Injuries are part of the game, but this was absurd," Logan said.
A juggling act on defense, Centennial has won with offense including a state-best 756 points and clutch playing, winning five games in the final minute, including a wild 41-34 regional final over Narbonne last week
"I don't say this lightly," Logan said. "This season has been amazing. For this group to be in this position, … truly incredible."
Which is a perfect description for De La Salle's roll over three-plus decades (34th season) under head coach Bob Ladouceur, the state's winningest coach with a 398-25-3 mark.
His .934 winning percentage is the best among any coach with 200 wins. The Spartans have won at least seven mythical national titles, four Bowl games, 28 North Coast Section titles (21 straight) and they own the nation's longest win streak of 151 games (from 1992-2004).
They have gone 236 games (234-0-2) without losing to a Northern California opponent. DE LA SALLE OFFENSE VS. CENTENNIAL DEFENSE
The Spartans haven't changed much offensively in the past 34 years, utilizing a quick-striking, fast moving veer run attack. They had to replace three-year starting quarterback Bart Houston (now at Wisconsin) with Williams, who has a big left arm that has been effective and accurate the last two weeks when he's completed 14 of 23 for 273 yards for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
His ballhandling isn't shifty and his running ability has been solid — he's rushed for 319 yards (including sacks) but 15 touchdowns.
Almost all the carries have gone to either Vitale or Tautalatasi, who are both slashers and straight-ahead rushers. Both lack breakaway speed, but are effective running inside.
Buckley is a scholarship baseball player at Cal and an effective all-around athlete. He catches everything thrown his way. Lately one of the state's most lauded defensive linemen (Austin Hooper
) has been effective at the tight end spot, with a pair of touchdown catches and two others that set up short scoring runs.
The key to De La Salle's attack is always a stout offensive line that relies on strength and quickness over size, which is the case again this year, though Larry Allen Jr
— the son of the former NFL All-Pro by the same name — has been very good and he's 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. The best of the bunch has been senior David Ogburn
"They do what they do and it's almost impossible to stop," Logan said. "We'll just try to slow them down."
The Huskies have had to make a lot of adjustments on defense with all the injuries, but have come through when they needed most. Gavin Andrews
had to move from safety to cornerback and has had a superb season according to Logan, as has inside linebacker Anthonee Yim
, who has a team-high 149 tackles. Andrews has three interceptions, two back of team leader John Plattenburg
Two-year starting safety Miquan Johnson
(112 tackles) is now at defensive end along with Jaylen Johnson
(no relation), who has stepped up big. Jaylen Johnson has 100 tackles and four sacks. CENTENNIAL OFFENSE VS. DE LA SALLE DEFENSE
Different year, same old gaudy numbers for the Huskies, who average an almost unheard of 542.2 yards per game. What makes them so effective, Eidson said, is how tremendously balanced they are in their spread attack
They've rushed for 4,140 yards and passed for 3,993.
"Their quarterback is a typical Centennial quarterback who can basically do it all either by run or pass," Eidson said. "They have two 1,000 yard rushers, I see two to four very effective receivers and I think it's the biggest offensive line I've seen them with."
Webber (5-10, 170) has thrown for at least 300 yards in four of the last six games, during which time he's thrown 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He hasn't run for 100 yards yet, but he's gone for 720 on the year, including sacks.
Watson (5-10, 190) is a big-time Division I prospect but he merely splits time with Renken in the one-back set. Besides Krivashei, the Huskies have three other wideouts with at least 41 catches.
Last week, against Folsom's wide-open spread attack, the Spartans put pressure on the quarterback at the edge and it led to six first-half sacks. They won't be able to do that against Centennial.
"Too balanced," Eidson said. "We didn't have to defend the rush last week. This week we have to stop the run first. These guys run, run and gash you deep. That's what makes them so difficult to defend."
De La Salle has the goods to do it, with hard-hitting USC-bound linebacker Michael Hutchings
(6-2, 215), Cal-bound defensive end Victor Egu
(6-3, 220), defensive end Hooper (6-4, 247) and strong safety/linebacker Dj Moffitt
All of them are big-time seniors in the state, but De La Salle has so much more, especially on the line with Sumner Houston
(6-2, 242) and Xavier Banks
"They have a great defensive front – especially at defensive end – and linebackers," Logan said. "Their front seven is as good as you're going to see. We'll have our hands full."EXTRA POINTS
Logan's daughter Sami, a Cal State Fullerton basketball signee, actually suited up on the football team and completed an 18-yard pass to Jordan Dye
in the final minutes of a lopsided win over Roosevelt-Eastvale on Oct. 26. Sami Logan and Dye both lost their mothers to breast cancer and it was their way to honor them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. … "This is our way to pay respect to our mothers and others who have lost their fight with breast cancer and those still battling it," Sami told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. … Matt Logan coached many of his current players in youth leagues along with his daughter. "It's made for a special year," he said. … Vitale has scored at least three touchdowns in six games this season. … Sumner Houston is the younger brother of Bart Houston, who led De La Salle to the three straight Open titles. ... De La Salle has been a part of all seven Bowl Championships, winning four of them. ... Centennial is 1-2 in Bowl games, losing to Palo Alto in the Division I title game of 2010.Watch more videos of De La Salle football