After the 2002 game between De La Salle and Long Beach Poly, DLS head coach Bob Ladouceur and athletic director/defensive coordinator Terry Eidson head toward the middle of the field at Cal’s Memorial Stadium. Photo: Bob Larson/SportStars.
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The defending CIF Open Division state champion Spartans, who it’s no secret will be the No. 1 team in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state rankings, are facing Texas powerhouse Trinity High of Euless, Texas, on August 28 in a nationally televised matchup. It’s the biggest California vs. Texas game ever, but is it the most anticipated showdown coming into a season that they’ve ever been in?Note: This feature already has appeared in SportStars Magazine, the official magazine partner of Cal-Hi Sports. Check out SportStars Magazine today. For more, CLICK HERE.Note: Complete state records for many De La Salle teams are for our Gold Club members only. This is a great time to sign up not only because the 2015 season is coming up fast but because our annual rate is going up as well. For details, CLICK HERE.
After winning last year’s CIF Open Division title with a 63-42 victory over Centennial of Corona and with a starting lineup of primarily juniors, the question about this year’s football team at De La Salle of Concord wasn’t whether it would start out No. 1 in California or even No. 1 in the nation but whether it might be one of the best or the best in the legendary program’s history.
To answer that question, to give the Spartans more legitimacy as a mythical national title contender and to provide the players with an opportunity to play a nationally ranked opponent on national TV, a game was scheduled to kick off the 2015 season against Trinity High of Euless, Texas on Friday, August 28 at Newsom Stadium in Mansfield (just outside Dallas).
ESPN is televising the matchup as part of its High School Football Showcase and has been well-known over the years to over-hype its high school matchups and manipulate its team rankings in trying to boost viewership and collect advertisers. We don’t know if DLS vs. Trinity will get the good ‘ol No. 1 vs. No. 2 designation, but it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Still, it’s going to be a huge game for the Spartans and for California’s national reputation. De La Salle’s losses to Don Bosco of Ramsey, N.J., in 2008 and 2009 and to St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2011 (not to mention a loss to Lakeland of Florida in 2009) have shown to some national pollsters that for the program to really get back to the No. 1 level it was at during the height of the national record 151-game win streak (which ended in 2004) that it needs to win a big game against a top team from either Texas or Florida.
Trinity also would certainly qualify as a top team. The Trojans have won three Class 5A state titles in their history and return a bevy of D1 college recruits after last year’s team went 12-2.
Any list of the of the most anticipated preseason matchups in De La Salle history has to begin with the prerequisite of that game being scheduled during the streak or after the streak. During the streak, of course, it created more anticipation, more significance. Also keep in mind that the buildup for some games, such as CIF state bowl matchups, takes place as a season unfolds. This list is for the anticipation of a matchup prior to a season beginning.
1. De La Salle vs. Long Beach Poly (2001)Over the past 30-plus years, many longtime Southern California observers will tell you that the Jackrabbits of this season were the most physically impressive team they’ve ever seen (the 2013 team at St. John Bosco of Bellflower was close). It was a team that had four future NFL players on the roster plus many others that played at major colleges.
Poly had won the CIF Southern Section title the year before, but it was a group dominated by players who were coming back. De La Salle’s winning streak at the time was sitting at 112 games at the start of the season and while the Spartans had already played Mater Dei of Santa Ana three times by then, they hadn’t yet faced Poly, which is known for having more NFL players than any other school in the U.S.
Despite the DLS streak, there were some national pollsters (including USA Today) that indicated early on that they were going to rank the Jackrabbits No. 1 to start the 2001 season. In the Student Sports/FAB 50, it was De La Salle No. 1 and Long Beach Poly No. 2.
Several weeks before the game, America was brought to its knees by the events of September 11. Still, since many knew how strong Poly was going to be, the anticipation for the 2001 game can’t be beat. It was the first documented No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in U.S. prep football history and it was a meeting, dubbed “The Streak vs. The Beach,” that generated 120 credential requests, including one from the New York Times.
Result: De La Salle 29, Long Beach Poly 15. Before the game, no one knew the name of junior running back Maurice Drew. After he scored four times, everyone did. Poly went on to finish 13-1 and won the CIFSS title.
2. De La Salle vs. Mater Dei-Santa Ana (1998)This was the game in DLS history that arguably could be No. 1 for this list right alongside DLS-Poly for 2001. Until 1998, remember, the Spartans had not played any prominent teams from the CIF Southern Section’s top division and Mater Dei at the time was the program to beat. This also was the team that in 1994 and in 1996 that USA Today ranked as No. 1 in the nation although Cal-Hi Sports for both years chose De La Salle.
Message boards on internet sites hadn’t yet begun, but there were many comments in the press that De La Salle was going to be in over its head to play this game. It was easily at the time the biggest and most anticipated NorCal vs. SoCal matchup in California history.
Result: De La Salle 28, Mater Dei 21. Just before halftime when the Spartans had built a 21-7 lead, DLS alum Brent Barry of the L.A. Clippers at the time (standing on the sidelines), yelled out: “We belong. We belong out there.”