The facts are more than obvious about the De La Salle history in the NCS playoffs and the fact they haven’t lost to a Northern California team since ironically Pittsburg beat the Spartans 35-27 in 1991 for the NCS 3A title.
Not only is that a stretch of 27-consecutive NCS titles by De La Salle it’s also a span of over 300-games where no team north of Fresno has pinned a loss on the Spartans.
No one has felt it more then 18-year Pittsburg Coach Vic Galli, a De La Salle graduate and disciple of legendary coach and movie man Bob Ladouceur. No one has lost more big games to the Spartans than Galli.
Since Galli took the Pirates helm in 2002 they have met De La Salle (11-1) in the NCS playoffs 10 times and lost five times in the championship game, four times in the semifinals, and once in the quarterfinals.
Galli has learned the playing field isn’t really level when his boys take the field against his alma mater but has he ever given up hope. Not really, but at this stage of the season it’s time to focus on the positives.
“Nothing is ever impossible,” Galli remarked. “We’re going to go out and play our butts off. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
The bright spot is No. 2 seed and Prep2Prep North Coast Section No. 2 Pittsburg (11-1) had a remarkable season in which they beat Bay Valley Athletic League rival and P2P NCS No. 3 Liberty, 24-21 in overtime in league and 21-14 last week in the semifinals, and along the way the Pirates get to hang another BVAL league championship banner in the gym. The lone loss for Galli and his boys was to P2P Central Coast Section top-ranked Serra, and that came on the heels of a win over St. Mary’s-Stockton where senior quarterback Jerry Johnson set a school record with six touchdowns and 368 yards passing
“”We’ve exceeded our expectations and the kids are proud of our season, and it shows we’re pretty good too,” Galli said. “We’ve been preparing just like it was any other week.”
Maybe so, but the reality is whether lightning could strike on Friday night, or if anyone can beat top-seeded De La Salle now or in the near future would not seem to look very promising.
This year’s team under Coach Justin Alumbaugh has proven itself in every aspect of a very solid season, and there’s really no reason to see them collapse after the way they have looked in their first 12 games.
The P2P NCS No. 1, Cal-Hi Sports No. 3 and national No. 9 Spartans gave national No. 5 and 12-0 St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida a great game where some calls that didn’t go their way and a couple of bad breaks contributed to a 24-14 loss, but it was the best game anyone has given the top team in Florida and football in Florida is not too shabby.
The rest of the schedule was almost a cakewalk despite scheduling some solid opponents. A still very good Folsom team now knocked out of the playoffs by Monterey Trail-Elk Grove in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, gave them a bit of a game, but the Spartans ability to march back to Concord with a win was never threatened in a 42-27 victory. For the remaining nine opponents De La Salle has shut out three and outscored them all by 533-94 combined, with a lot of points coming against subs in a running clock.
Yet some folks still want to stir the pot like every year in the two-dozen plus years of Spartans dominance, so rather than ask Alumbaugh the same questions year after year he promptly responds to when texted, we went out of the box.
When asked about the social media chit-chat of whether Pittsburg or anyone can beat them, and staying focused and not getting caught up in it, Alumbaugh had this to say.
“We don’t talk about chatter. We talk about what needs to be done today and tomorrow. Every day is essential to what we do.”
Alumbaugh, who starred at De La Salle and was the protégé of Ladouceur, was still in true Spartans form with his remarks. And why not? Everyone knows what De La Salle is going to do and that’s march, and Alumbaugh has some marchers that are hard to stop.
Pick a game and it’s likely the same. Senior running back Shamar Garrett and junior dual-threat quarterback Dorian Hale lead the march with others like senior running back James Coby and juniors Mekhi Norfleet and Nico Torrez all dangerous. Plus, when Alumbaugh decides to throw, which he does occasionally, and Hale connects with senior wide receiver Grant Daley, plus others, it can lead to some big plays.
The scoring differential and the way the points were scored, plus holding a top national team to its lowest point total of the season, shows the De La Salle defense is as vise-like as usual.
Johnson has some wide receiver targets to hit for Pittsburg in seniors Brian Andre Pierce Jr., Johnny Blackmon III, James Battle III and freshman Rashid Williams is blossoming. Plus senior Avant Muldrow is a more than capable running back.
The reality is its going to be De La Salle almost assuredly moving on to the state CIF Open Division Bowl Game, and another reality is the expert analysts all see this as a big De La Salle victory, when the teams meet this Friday at Dublin High.
But then again as Galli pointed out, nothing is ever impossible in a football game.