For the football team, Saturday’s 49-13 win against San Ramon Valley in the North Coast Section Division I championship game must have seemed like nothing more than a formality.
Coming into the game, De La Salle had won 19-straight section titles and hadn’t lost 222 straight games against teams from Northern California.
“I really can’t believe it's 20 consecutive wins for NCS,” running back Tiapepe Vitale said. “We’re happy to be here and just hoping to go down to State and win it.”
The team is a virtual lock to represent Northern California in the California State Open Division Bowl game against Westlake-Westlake Village at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Friday. The official announcement is expected to come at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“When you get into that game it’s anybody’s game,” De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur said. “We know we’ll have to play four quarters.”
The Spartans in last year's game.
Vitale ran for 168 yards on 19 carries and scored the team’s first six touchdowns on Saturday. He scored on runs of 5, 5, 20, 6, 8 and 7 yards as the Spartans built a 42-0 lead.
It hardly came as a surprise.
When the teams met in the regular season, De La Salle , in which a running clock was used in the fourth quarter.
“Competing against a team from multiple cities versus a team from one city is too much,” San Ramon coach Mark Kessler said. “They’re an amazing program, no discredit to them, but you see it year in, year out — 20 straight — it’s not a fair playing field.”
Kessler’s frustration is common among coaches in the area, but with no realistic solution, the Spartans figure to continue dominating for years to come.
On how this year’s team compares to teams of DLS past, Kessler said: “I think they are workmen-like on offense, but they might not be as explosive as they have been in the past with 60, 70 yard runs again and again. But that defense, wow. As good as we thought they were last year, I think, as a team defense, I don’t know that there is any better. They just fly around and make plays.”
San Ramon quarterback Zach Kline, who was recently named the Gatorade California State Player of the Year, completed 19 of 33 passes for 294 yards.
Kline had been vocal about his desire to beat De La Salle but was gracious in defeat.
“It was everything our team wanted to do and we got here and it was a heck of a season,” Kline said. “Coming here and battling with my boys. They’re my brothers, I’ll remember this as an amazing season."
Kline also confirmed he will graduate from San Ramon on Friday and enroll at U.C. Berkeley for the spring semester, where he’ll take part in the football team’s spring practice. Rated the No. 3 pro-style quarterback recruit in the country by Rivals.com, Kline figures to have a chance to see playing time early in his career at Cal.
His counterpart in Saturday’s game, Wisconsin-bound quarterback Bart Houston, quietly completed 9 of 12 passes for 157 yards. Rivals ranks Houston as the country’s No. 12 pro-style quarterback.
With De La Salle leading 7-0, the Wolves got down to the DLS 2-yard line before a fumble gave the ball back to the Spartans.
“More than keeping it close, it’d of given the guys some juice,” Kessler said. “Giving up that fumble took away a gritty drive. If you cash that in, it’s not going to change the outcome, but maybe you hang in there a little longer.”
David Riopelle ran for 123 yards on nine carries for De La Salle and scored on a 71-yard touchdown run.
Jordan Weiss ran for 75 yards on 15 carries and scored both touchdown for San Ramon. The first was a 2-yard run to cut the deficit to 42-6, the second an 11-yard reception from Kline.