Video: Highlights of DLS All-American Henry To'oto'o
The 6-3, 215-pound linebacker also starred at running back for the Spartans.
Story updated 5 p.m.
The 2018 football game that Northern California fans were hoping for at the end of the season will instead start it. De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
athletic director Leo Lopoz and Folsom (Calif.)
football coach Kris Richardson confirmed a short time ago that the two national powers will open the 2018 season in a Week 0 game (Aug. 17) in Concord.
"It's fun, it's good, it's great," De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said following the team's Thursday workout. "This should pack them in. This is a game a lot of people want to see. It will give a different emphasis on the off-season that's for sure. It's a game with playoff implications from the start."
"It's the great (off-season) motivator for both teams," he said. "We wanted to play a great early-season schedule and there's no better way to open than with De La Salle. There's no greater challenge. We're more than excited for it."
Folsom (16-0), the defending state Division 1-AA champion, returns 15 starters from last year's team that finished No. 18 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings. The Bulldogs' high-octane offense piled up 770 points last year behind returning quarterback Kaiden Bennett
, who accounted for an astounding 5,649 yards and 73 touchdowns.
De La Salle, winners of seven state bowl games, placed second in California for the second straight year, losing to national champion Mater Dei (Santa Ana) in the Open Division title. The Spartans, returning almost its entire defense including All-Amercan linebacker Henry To'oto'o
, finished No. 25 nationally. On paper, the defense looks like one of the best they've had in years.
Over the last few weeks, both programs worked their schedules hard to make the game happen. De La Salle, in fact, had its schedule completed with a week 0 game scheduled with Amador Valley (Pleasanton). But a coach on the Dons' staff had a good friend on the staff at Del Oro (Loomis), which needed an Aug. 17 game.
All parties worked together, and De La Salle vs. Folsom happened. The Bulldogs will host De La Salle in 2019.
"It's always difficult trying to match weeks and find programs that want to compete on the local and state level," Lopoz said. "This is an obvious match for many reasons. We're happy (the games) got done."
The programs have squared off twice before, with De La Salle winning two CIF Northern California Regional Open Division finals, 49-15 in 2012 and the following season, 45-17. Those lopsided scores prompted the CIF to scratch the Open regional final and instead handpick the top teams from the North and South.
The following season, Folsom, behind Jake Browning, went 16-0 and won its second state crown in the Division I level, while De La Salle captured the state Open championship.
Because De La Salle owns a massive 289-game unbeaten streak against Northern California foes (North of Fresno), many believe the CIF will always pick the Spartans to be the NorCal representative until it loses. The Spartans have won 26 straight North Coast Section crowns.
Folsom could have made a strong case last season to be chosen as the Northern California representative in the Open Division game.
If the two squads hadn't scheduled this 2018 game, and both went undefeated, the CIF would have been presented a whale of a decision. Now, thanks to this scheduled opener, that possible conflict is resolved.
Owen Owens Field, home of De La Salle, seats about 4,500 fans Lopoz said, but they've jammed up to 7,000 fans in and around the stadium. No television contract has been discussed.
"We have great respect for Folsom and coach Richardson," Alumbaugh said. "They were nothing but class when we played them those two years and it's been a pleasure working with (Richardson) the last few weeks to get this done."
Said Richardson: "You always want to challenge your team to the fullest and those De La Salle teams those two years were incredible. Even though we lost, we learned a lot. ... We have a lot of really good kids coming back with a lot of experience. Our plan like any game is to prepare like crazy and play our butts off."
De La Salle, which also has national powers Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and East (Salt Lake City, Utah) on its schedule, was in full physical preparation form on Thursday. Alumbaugh didn't tell the Spartans about the Folsom opener until after workouts.
"We went six full circuits in the weight room instead of five," Alumbaugh said. "There's a lot of work to be done."