SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the De La Salle Spartans of the CIF North Coast Section, the No. 5 team in our countdown.
DE LA SALLE HEAD COACH
Justin Alumbaugh, 8th season (89-9)
2019 AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 12-2
- League record: 4-0 (1st in East Bay – Mountain League)
- Playoffs: Defeated Amador Valley 69-14, defeated Monte Vista 49-13, defeated Pittsburg 49-7 to win CIFNCS Division 1 championship. Lost 49-28 to St. John Bosco in CIF Open Division state championship.
ALL-EAST BAY – MOUNTAIN LEAGUE DEPARTURES
RB/DB Shamar Garrett – Co-Player of the Year
OL/DL Ben Roe – First Team (offense)
OL Matt Vranesh – First Team
WR Grant Daley – First Team
DL Wyatt Crespi – First Team
TE/DL Clayton Seastrand – First Team (defense)
RB James Coby – First Team (return specialist)
OL Brendan Tuholski – Second Team
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Dorian Hale – SR.
A 3-star Sacramento State commit, Hale threw for 2,047 yards and 17 touchdowns to only three picks last season. He also ran for 588 yards and six touchdowns on the way to making first team all-league.
Coach Alumbaugh: “He’s a four-year varsity player; he’s of course very integral to our success. He looks great in workouts right now.”
WR/CB Lu-Magia Hearns – SR.
A 3-star CB who signed with Cal, Hearns is both a dominant corner and impact WR for the Spartans. He caught for 439 yards and two touchdowns last season and made first team all-league.
Coach Alumbaugh: “He’s an awesome kid … he almost has a 4.0 GPA. And he’s a 3-year starter.”
DL/OL Chad Tasi – SR.
Another first team defense returner, Tase is a nationally-ranked Southern Utah signee primarily for his work at center/guard, per 247Sports. But for De La Salle his primary role is on the defensive side.
Coach Alumaugh: “He’ll probably be focused on defense this season at DT. We usually have linemen go one way, or one-and-a-half ways, but we generally don’t have linemen go two ways. Chad has great hands, good feet.”
WR/CB Zeke Berry – JR.
Berry, a 3-star CB, has already been offered by more than half the Pac-12 for his work on defense. He also had roughly 350 total yards of offense last season at wideout.
Coach Alumbaugh: “The way he’s ramping up, his senior year he’s going to be one of the top guys in the nation.”
K Blas Guerrero – SR.
Guerrero was first team all-league and all-section last season, and has numerous college offers as a kicker.
OL Jon Puckett – SR.
A second team all-league OC, Puckett will lead one of the state’s most athletic O-lines along with Owen Wardy, JJ Tofaeono, and Luca Rossi.
OLB Kairo Reed – SR.
One of the anchor’s of De La Salle’s front seven, Reed is a 3-star LB who’s been offered at the college level.
TE Brodie Tagaloa – JR.
A 3-star prospect with several Power-5 offers, Tagaloa caught for 64 yards as a sophomore and will likely see more targets this season.
RB Mekhi Norfleet – SR.
Norfleet looks to be the Spartans’ top threat at running back this season after rushing for 470 yards and eight TDs in just eight games last season.
RB Nico Torres – SR.
Torres will be De La Salle’s other primary weapon at RB this season, rushing for 356 yards and four touchdowns as a junior while catching for 74 yards and two TDs.
HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED DE LA SALLE FOOTBALL
COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Alumbaugh shares how COVID-19 has impacted De La Salle football over the past several months:
“The data suggests it can be done, and it can be done safely,” coach Alumbaugh said. “I think the kids are overall more likely to be safe if they’re with us playing football anyway, instead of being off by themselves.”
“It’s hard for everybody. I’m proud of the kids – we’ve been doing workouts since June, following all the health guidelines, and the kids have all been showing up. They’ve been focused, happy.”
“We’ve been focusing on keeping the kids busy. Our school has been in hybrid mode, so there have been kids on campus. We’ve been holding workouts four days a week just like we would in the summer time. The coaches have had to be creative.”
“One of the best things we did, working with the baseball coach, was building a weight room outside in the batting cage. Lifting is integral to football of course, and good for the body and soul, we’ve been happy about that. There’s only so many jumping jacks and pushups you can do.”
De La Salle is currently on a 311-game winning streak (in addition to two draws) against the rest of Northern California. So every season – 2020-21 included – De La Salle is the prohibitive NorCal favorite to go undefeated during league play, non-league play (within the state), and win a North Coast Section Division 1 championship.
And if a CIF Open Division state championship takes place, the odds are strong the Spartans will be in it – with a chance to win it.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
This season has an unusual variable for DLS in that the delayed and condensed season could provide unique challenges that football programs never have had to deal with before. And the NCS has some strong challengers this year including Pittsburg, Liberty, and Clayton Valley Charter, among others. But De La Salle’s dominance is unlikely to waver in 2020-21 – just like any other season.
In any other season, De La Salle’s goal would be the same as always – an Open Division state championship. But this season?
“We just want the opportunity to play,” said coach Alumbaugh. “The goal is to get out, have fun, and be safe. That’s it. Of course we are all competitive, we want to play the right way and be successful, but right now we just want to get out and play. That’s it.”
“It’s exciting to know that every year we’re going to play one of the top, if not the top team in the country (in the state championship). The streak against NorCal teams is a misnomer. People look at the NorCal streak … I don’t know what the streak is, nor do I care, but we play great teams and don’t look down on any of them because of the streak. We play great teams, we have close games, and have had some nail-biters. We’ve honestly gotten lucky a few times.
“We play disciplined, tough, and physical football, with a lot of camaraderie and integrity … Getting out on the field this season is our only focus.”
— Head coach Justin Alumbaugh