Short of beating a college team, there’s nothing the football team can accomplish that would constitute "surprising."
That includes Saturday’s 35-0 shellacking of Westlake, the supposed best team in Southern California, in the California State Open Division Bowl game. Performances like that have long been the expectation for the Spartans.
Moving forward, nothing figures to change. As long as Bob Ladouceur is coaching De La Salle, the Spartans will play for Open Division championships and be considered for mythical national titles. East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section titles are essentially etched into stone before each season begins.
As long as the Spartans keep winning – which they will – debates regarding De La Salle and its place locally will rage on.
After the team’s in the NCS finals, several Patch readers expressed their opinions.
Here are some of the more memorable lines:
"It is ridiculous that DLS is even in the league. They recruit from all over, taking what they think is the best players."
"Maybe Private schools should compete against each other since they can take from any area."
"We can only hope that one day DLS will leave this league. It is so unfair and demoralizing to players from the public schools."
"DLS is the winner in Northern California, again, because they worked hard and are flat better, again."
"Unless every player on their roster is from Concord, it is NOT apples to apples."
"De La Salle will keep on winning without recruiting and everything else you accuse them of doing. Please continue to whine and believe that DLS recruits and gets the better players from all over the Bay Area."
A lot of what I read came off as misinformed, so let’s set the record straight.
- The recruiting issue. De La Salle does not actively recruit. The program’s success and reputation is the biggest recruiting tool out there. Are there parents who try to recruit? Absolutely, but that stuff goes on at public schools too. The notion De La Salle coaches are recruiting middle schoolers is beyond absurd and anyone who believes otherwise lives in a fantasy world.
- League placement. A lot of EBAL parents whine about De La Salle being in the league. Bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what league De La Salle is in, it’s going to dominate. Yes, it’s a public school league (other than DLS), but the EBAL is arguably the best league in Northern California. There isn’t a better alternative from a competitive equity standpoint aside from possibly the West Catholic Athletic League, which is made up of privates schools from San Jose up the peninsula to San Francisco. The Spartans have had some close games with WCAL teams in recent years, but they've all come in the first few weeks of the season. There isn't a team in the country that improves like De La Salle over the course of the season. By the time league play rolls around the Spartans are a different team. The last three years they have beaten Southern California’s best teams by 35, 40 and 14 points in the state bowl games. Each year, they’ve had at least one EBAL game that was more competitive.
- Quasi-independent. I've long been a proponent of quasi-independent status for De La Salle in football like it had with the Bay Valley Athletic League before it joined the EBAL in 2008. It can schedule five non-league games at the start of the season, then play five EBAL teams (likely San Ramon Valley, Monte Vista, Cal, Foothill and Amador Valley) to round out the schedule. Let's be honest — the EBAL title means nothing to DLS. It's all about winning state bowl games and, to a lesser extent, NCS titles. Why not keep the league title alive for teams that will see it as the ultimate goal? Everybody benefits from this scenario.
Does being a private school give De La Salle a distinct advantage over other schools? Definitely. There's no denying that. But that's not the end-all, be-all reason for the program's success. If it were, then Moreau Catholic of Hayward, Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, Berean Christian of Walnut Creek and St. Mary's of Berkeley would compete for NCS titles every year. They don't, even in the lower divisions.
On the flip side, would De La Salle have the same success if its roster mirrored that of neighboring Ygnacio Valley High? Not a chance. Which is why I can understand the frustration of coaches who are charged with trying to scheme against DLS. It really is a stacked deck.
Is it always fair? No, but the last time I checked neither is life. You just have to deal with it. High school sports are supposed to enrich the educational experience. Playing against De La Salle does that.
Kyle Bonagura has covered high school football in the East Bay since 2000. Follow him on Twitter