CONCORD, Calif. — There are plans for a new trophy case at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), one where the team’s state championship and NorCal championship trophies aren’t stacked on top of one another like firewood the way they are now.
A lot has changed in the past 26 years at De La Salle but there has been one constant: the Spartans’ dominance of Northern California football. De La Salle’s national-record winning streak of 151 games ended in 2003, but the Spartans have not lost to a NorCal opponent since 1992, a string of 288 games.
De La Salle athletic director Leo Lopoz points out that the school strives for excellence in all of its sports, and academics, where 96% of its 2017 graduates said they plan to go on to college. However, football has put the school on the national map, with a book, “When the Game Stands Tall” and a 2014 movie of the same name.
Justin Alumbaugh has been the head coach since 2013, but he’s been on the staff for 17 years and is one of the youngest coaches on the team.
“On our coaching staff, the newest guy has been here three years, after that, the newest has been here like 13 years,” Alumbaugh said. “Our kids come in with an expectation that they have to work hard, they have to work out in the weight room, they have to be good in school. That breeds expectations. There is a lot of continuity with the staff and that helps us breed success.”
That includes former head coach Bob Ladouceur, now an assistant in his 39th year at De La Salle, assistant Terry Eidson, who has been at the school for 35 years and Mark Panella, who has been on the staff for 30 years.
“That coaching staff, they have their oars in the water and they all row in the same direction,” school president Mark DeMarco said. “Everybody wants to do the next new thing. These guys have stuck to what they’ve said they want to do and we are going to be good at the fundamentals.”
The Spartans are 8-1 and ranked No. 18 in the Super 25 with their only loss to No. 10 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). This is a bye week for the Spartans, but Tuesday they were out doing their usual 2 1/2-hour practice in 85 degrees, unseasonably warm for the Bay Area this time of year.
Another constant for the Spartans is their split-back veer offense. It is difficult to defend because opponents don’t often see it and find it hard to replicate by scout teams in practice. Lopoz said that while the basic offense hasn’t changed for decades, it has been constantly tweaked.
“They’ve definitely evolved to coach to the different level of play,” Lopoz said. “If you look at the scheduling, they have had to do things differently. As much as things have stayed the same, they’ve adjusted personnel, but they like their bread and butter, obviously.”
The bread-and-butter includes things besides X’s and O’s, Ladouceur said. Seven of the coaches on the team played for De La Salle.
“All successful programs create a culture at their school of what is expected,” Ladouceur said. “Not just on the field, but off the field too — around the school, academically, socially, a way of behaving and interacting with other people.”
Five of the coaches have other roles at the school. Assistant coach Joe Aliotti is the dean of students, Eidson teaches religion, Ladouceur teaches physical education, Alumbaugh teaches English, and Chris Crespi teaches science.
“We have them in the classroom and we get to know them better, we know their peer groups,” Ladouceur said. “We spend more time with them. They are not strangers to us because we’re just not dealing with them from 3 to 5:30. Public schools have such a high turnover and a lot of off-campus coaches.”