Two of the nation's most consistent high school football powers not named De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
used "When the Game Stands Tall" to reach lofty heights.
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
coach Tony Sanchez and Bellevue (Wash.)
coach Butch Goncharoff read the acclaimed Neil Hayes book about De La Salle that was turned into the major motion picture that opens Friday nationwide.
Neither coach has seen the movie — they plan to — but both said the book was instrumental in shaping their coaching philosophies and football programs. For more information, visit the Sony Pictures "When The Game Stands Tall" website
A small portion had to do with X's and O's, though Bellevue and De La Salle run very similar old-school, quick-hitting offenses.
Mostly, it's based around creating brotherhoods, caring about and being accountable to one another.
Bishop Gorman is No. 13 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, has won five straight state titles under Sanchez and owns a 70-5 record in that span. Sanchez played high school football at Granada (Livermore, Calif.)
, about 25 miles from De La Salle, and coached in the same league as the Spartans at California (San Ramon, Calif.)
The two teams played each other for a North Coast Section title in 2007, a 37-0 De La Salle victory. Sanchez said De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur was always good to him and offered any knowledge he could, but the book gave him a manual, a black and white direction.
"I read the book twice," Sanchez said. "I was a young coach in the Bay Area at the time and to me, it was very much like I had the greatest model of building a program right in front of me. What a great opportunity I had, we all had."
He said the biggest part he took from "When the Game Stands Tall" was how to motivate teenagers "beyond the game."
"It's not just about winning and losing – I think Bob has made that clear," he said. "His legacy won't really about all the rings he has or championships they've won, but about helping shape good kids, good Americans. I use many of his methods to this day."
"That it's not corny for kids to love one another and really mean it by honoring one another, being accountable and working hard for one another and not letting them regress. It's a fine line. All of it has to be honest and genuine."
Goncharoff agrees and has applied it at Bellevue since he took over in 2000.
He's built an absolute juggernaut, not only in the Northwest but the nation, with 10 state titles in 13 years and a record of 126-7 since 2004, the year the Wolverines opened the season with a 39-20 win over De La Salle at Qwest Field, breaking the Spartans' national-record 151-game win streak.
It put Goncharoff and the Wolverines on the national map. The game is prominently reenacted in "WTGST," which premieres Thursday in some special showings.
Goncharoff fully admitted afterward that he studied and copied De La Salle's blueprint. The Wolverines, who run a Wing-T attack much like the Spartans' veer, racked up 463 yards, committed just two penalties and didn't turn the ball over. It was a near perfect performance – and effort – something Ladouceur and the Spartans preach.
"De La Salle has been on top of the heap for so many years," Goncharoff said after that game. "We did our research. We read every book. I read every article, (watched) every piece of film I could get on them."
E.J. Savannah, a Bellevue linebacker on that 2004 team, told Hayes before the game, "The team that beats them won't be the most talented team but the team that cares about each other the most." Showtimes, in your area
Ladouceur said after the game that Goncharoff had obviously done his homework. He praised the Bellevue staff and program immensely. He also felt proud that the Spartans had pushed, perhaps even inspired another program to a perfect effort, one which Bellevue has largely maintained now for more than a decade.
"When I saw film of (Bellevue) this summer I felt confident we could beat them," Ladouceur said after the game. "But the team we saw on tape wasn't the team we played out there tonight. To their credit, they put in a lot of new stuff we weren't ready for.
"That's funny because that's what we've always heard other coaches say about us.
"They had some confusing fronts and they were more physical than us. They faked us out real good. They put on a very good game plan. He (Goncharoff) had obviously been working on this game plan a long time, and it showed."
On Monday, Goncharoff said he has the utmost respect for De La Salle and would love to play them again.
"We've talked about it several times, but it just hasn't worked out," Goncharoff said. "The coaches are a great bunch of guys. It would be fun to get together again for a game."
He noted how similar the two programs are, from offenses, to team commitments, to being humble.
"You won't see kids wearing Bellevue sweatshirts that say how many state championships we've won," Goncharoff said.
The most humble ones on both campuses might be the two head coaches. Ladouceur spoke about it being imperative to reach his players. How could he have a giant ego and expect his team to play selfless? It's the essence of the movie's title.
"Kids respect true humility and that you stand for something more than winning," Ladouceur told Hayes. "They'll fight for you and your program if you stand for more than that. It boils down to what you believe in as a person, and I'm talking about how life should be lived and how people should be treated. Kids see all that. … Our kids aren't fighting for wins. They're fighting for a belief in what we stand for."
Goncharoff said he's had to reveal himself to his players throughout his 14 seasons.
"If they can't trust and believe in you, how are they going to buy in to each other?" he said.
Despite Bellevue's gaudy record, the Wolverines, like De La Salle, rarely speak of wins and losses.
"If you do the right things, winning will come," Goncharoff said.
Sanchez preaches the same message. It's always been the cornerstone at De La Salle. Sanchez said standing tall as a coach, and a program, is becoming more and more challenging.
"More than ever our society is about instant gratification," he said. "Everyone wants to be a star. But at what cost? We're trying to teach our kids that being the star isn't nearly as important as being a good teammate, being a good person, being accountable to your football family, your family at home, your community."