Video: De La Salle vs. St. Thomas Aquinas previewThe California-Florida battle continues with this Top 25 showdown.
History, if nothing else, is fun to ponder. Especially in high school sports.
Players constantly change rosters during four-year cycles, but trends are trends.
The battle between perennial national powers — from power states — is a rematch of the 2011 game played in Fort Lauderdale, a 30-6 Aquinas victory.
"It's embarrassing to come all this way to play like that," then De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur said after the Spartans committed four turnovers in the loss.
The Spartans' only other showdown against a Florida team finished in defeat, a 31-30 overtime setback in 2009 when Ladouceur had his team go for a two-point conversion to win. A pass was knocked away.
While the Spartans are 0-2 versus Florida, St. Thomas Aquinas is 2-0 versus California teams, recording also a sluggish but rugged 9-3 home win over St. John Bosco (Bellflower) in 2017.
More trends go against De La Salle
• In the last 10 California vs. Florida games pitting two Top 25 teams, the Sunshine State leads 8-2. The two California wins were Mater Dei over IMG Academy 28-24 in 2018 and Long Beach Poly over Northwestern in 2007. IMG's 50-49 victory over Centennial (Corona) in 2016 is probably was probably the most exciting game in the California-Florida series.
• In out-of-state matchups since 2005, De La Salle is 6-8 and St. Thomas Aquinas is 11-4.
To it all, current De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh nods and rubs his chin.
"It's interesting, but probably doesn't have much effect on Friday's game," he said.
It's not like the Spartans haven't heard about the drubbing they took eight years ago on a stormy night in Florida. The game was delayed more than an hour because of lightning. De La Salle probably wish it had been cancelled all together.
"We've heard a lot about that game," De La Salle starting junior quarterback Dorian Hale
said. "We have a chance to turn that around."
Hale said he's watched probably more than 30 hours of film on the most recent version of the Raiders, No. 10 in the MaxPreps preseason rankings, and came away impressed. Aquinas, which averages nearly 300 pounds along its offensive and defensive fronts, will dwarf the 18th-ranked Spartans. But that's nothing new for De La Salle. The Spartans have always prided themselves on being smaller, quicker and better conditioned.
"We won't be intimidated for sure," Hale said. "But we respect them. They have a lot of big athletes."
Said Alumbaugh: "Will have our work cut out for sure. We'll find out immediately just where we stand. We like to challenge ourselves. That's the fun part."
This De La Salle squad should be particularly fun to watch, with perhaps its best assortment of skill players in at least a decade.
Hall, a 6-foot, 180-pound dual threat, has a great arsenal of backs, led by speedy two-way standout Shamar Garrett
, and receivers, led by 6-2, 185-pound Grant Daley
. Hale, Garrett and Daley all led the Spartans statistically last season.
St. Thomas Aquinas (13-2 last season), ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today, is led by 4-star receiver Marcus Rosemy
(6-2, 195), 4-star tackle Marcus Dumervil
(6-5, 305) and 4-star linebacker Derek Wingo
Both teams might be playing with an extra edge. Each lost in the state finals, the Raiders 33-20 to Lakeland in the 7A title game. De La Salle lost 35-21 to Mater Dei in the CIF Open Division Bowl championship.
Each team has had all offseason to chew on that.
"Both teams should be hungry," Hale said. "Both teams will be well prepared. I don't think we'll be nervous. At the end of the day, we're playing a game we've been playing all our lives. I can't wait."