The California high school football championship will take place Saturday, December 20, at 8 pm local time, at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The match-up is between the No. 2 De la Salle Spartans (13-0) and the No. 1 Centennial Huskies (12-2).
There will be four other championship bowl games occurring between Friday and Saturday in California. The Spartans vs the Huskies will be the main event. Both are playing in the top division game of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Open Division Bowl.
The Open Division Bowl has hosted De la Salle in six of its seven games, missing out in the inaugural 2008 game. Prior to the Open Division Bowl, from 2006 to 2008, De la Salle showed up in all three games of the Division I Championship Bowl.
From 2006 to Saturday, De la Salle will have played in a California state title game every year. The powerhouse of the north waited till 2006 to play in a state title game, 79 years after it was terminated in 1927 due to financial issues and logistical problems. We will never know, how many more state championship appearances and victories the Spartans would have pulled off.
The Spartans, rich in tradition and arguably the greatest high school football program in the nation, is trying to avenge their 20-14, loss to St. John Bosco last year. The Spartans are a team best known for their national record-setting 151-game winning streak, lasting 12 seasons. The streak and the head coach became a storyline for the August 2014 movie release of When the Game Stands Tall.
The streak first started in 1992 with a 34-14 win over Merced High School and ending in 2004 with a loss to Bellevue-Washington 39-20. The streak was led by Bob Ladouceur, who after 20 unbeaten seasons, countless championships and 399 wins, stepped down after the 2013 season. He handed the reins to first year man, Justin Alumbaugh. Alumbaugh, the former offensive line coach and player at De la Salle, took over and now finds himself in another California high school football championship, possibly the fifth California title in six years for De la Salle.
Centennial High School located in Corona, CA will face the Spartans for the fourth time in a decade. They achieved a victory once in the 2007 Division I championship game, where the Spartans beat the Huskies 37-31. Corona Centennial, with a legendary California high school football coach of their own, Matt Logan, has coached the Huskies since 1997. Coach Matt Logan’s last California state title came in 2008, when the Huskies were led by Nebraska standout QB Taylor Martinez, who beat De la Salle 21-16. In their 2012 matchup, De la Salle once again claimed victory, 48-28, in the Open Division title game. Centennial a dominate force in the California CIF Southern Section, will be appearing in their fourth state title game.
The Huskies are the self-proclaimed Evil Empire, named after the region it dominates, the Inland Empire. Centennial has won four Big VIII League titles and nine Mountain View League titles since 1989. The Huskies have a two-quarterback system, led by senior Nate Ketteringham and junior Anthony Catalano, both combining for over 3,400 yards passing and over 800 yards rushing.
Centennial’s running game has a two-man junior running back system now. After Sammonte Bonner torched St. John Bosco for 227 yards, four touchdowns on 43 carries, he became the next man up. Bonner’s emergence as a star running back came when junior JJ Taylor had his appendix removed, missing three playoff games. Taylor leads the team with 27 touchdowns and over 1600 yards rushing, compared to seconding leading rusher, Bonner, with eight rushing touchdowns on 647 yards.
A high-octane offense, against a powerful defense in De la Salle who will bring a four-man defensive line, led by junior Boss Tagaloa. Tagaloa played in the CIF Open Division in 2012 against the Huskies as a freshman. He will bring experience and leadership to a young defensive line to take pressure off the defensive backs and linebackers. Tagaloa has anchored three shutouts in the last five games, now totaling five in the season.
With a great running game of their own, the Spartans ground game is carried by Andrew Hernandez. Hernandez, like Centennial’s Taylor, has 27 touchdowns and is over 1600 yards rushing on 131 carries. De la Salle has rushed for a team total, 5,101 yards on nearly 10 yards per carry, will cause problems for the Corona team.
De la Salle for 23 years has been the dominant force of the north, while Centennial is a modern-era, fearless team with the toughest schedule in the country. Two teams with plenty of experience, playing for the California high school football championship, face off Saturday.
Commentary By Daniel Gudino
Image courtesy of Chris Scheufele – Flickr License