While the preseason Super 25 football rankings won’t come out until late July, this is the first in a series on teams that could contend in the Super 25 high school football rankings next season.
Team: De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
2014 finish: The Spartans went 14-0 and won the state Open Division Bowl and finished No. 3 in the Super 25 rankings.
Tradition: The Spartans set the national record for consecutive wins (151, from 1992 to 2004) and are the only team in the state to make it to a CIF divisional state championship game every year since those games were re-established in 2006.
Spring practice begins: May 11 and runs two weeks with helmets, no pads.
2015 schedule: De La Salle opens at three-time state champion Trinity (Euless, Texas) on Aug. 29. Other tough games include Long Beach Poly, Servite (Anaheim), JSerra (San Mateo), Lutheran (Orange) and Granite Bay.
Top returnees: RBs Andrew Hernandez and Antoine Custer, DL/LB Keanu Andrade, OL/DL Boss Tagaloa, TE/DE Devin Asiasi, LB/TE Joe Vranesh, OG/DE Damon Wiley, WR/DB Chris Vanderklugt and QB Anthony Sweeney.
Toughest to replace: The Spartans relied heavily on three senior offensive linemen last season: Drew Sullivan, Matt Medeiros and Blake Ogburn.
Outlook: Normally, it’s a good sign when a team’s starting quarterback returns. The Spartans return three guys who spent significant time under center last season in Sweeney, Asiasi, and Vanderklugt. That was out of necessity because of a ridiculous number of injuries, but quarterback isn’t the only place where the Spartans are solid. Hernandez and Custer combined to rush for more than 3,700 yards and 54 touchdowns last season.
“You never know how good you’re going to be until you get into pads,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “We have to replace our best offensive linemen, but we have three of six starting linemen coming back and a lot of other guys who played returning. Hernandez and Custer were really dynamic for us. We had a lot of guys contribute last year who are back. We haven’t had to reinvent the wheel during offseason training because guys like (Asiasi), Wiley and Vanderklugt are driving the younger guys.”