De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) made its first trip to Texas and the Spartans will head home with a loss.
The No. 1 ranked team in the Super 25 was upended 26-21 by Euless Trinity in Mansfield on Saturday in the nightcap of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff. The start was delayed 90 minutes by weather.
Trinity and De La Salle was the perfect matchup. Each is a power-running team that likes to out-physical you, impose its will, break your spirit and then light up the scoreboard with spurts of runs before the inevitable touchdown.
Both teams had its fair share of magnifying plays, however, Trinity had the size advantage and the physical conditioning required in the element. Some of De La Salle’s star players played both ways and couldn’t keep up with Trinity’s physicality through the 48 minutes.
“They had their share of big plays, we had ours, and you know all the big plays, none of them were gimmicky,” said Trinity first-year head coach Chris Jensen, the longtime offensive coordinator.
De La Salle had a 14-6 advantage late in the second half until a key defensive play helped change the momentum heading into the locker room.
With 28 seconds left in the second quarter, the Spartans had the ball near midfield. Antoine Custer took the handoff, was immediately drilled in the backfield by a massive Trinity defender and Samuela Leota scooped up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown.
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“I just saw the ball and knew I had to get to the end zone,” Leota said. “I ran hard and just knew God had blessed me to make a big play for my team.”
“I think that’s why high school football is so exciting,” Jensen said of Leota’s momentum-changing play. “You just don’t ever know what’s going to happen. That’s the farthest thing from my mind that we would scoop and score and shed a bunch of tacklers on the way.
“That’s why you line up and play the game.”
In the second half, it was evident that De La Salle’s two-way starters were starting to feel the fatigue from the humidity and the style of play that Texas football teams deal with day in and day out.
The Spartans have three key two-way starters in Custer, tight end/defensive lineman Devin Asiasi and OL/DL Boss Tagaloa.
Trinity scored the lone touchdown in the third quarter when Tyler Natee rambled through a few tacklers for a 44-yard bolt up the middle to the end zone. His timely score with 4:05 left in the third put his team ahead 19-14.
Trinity then added a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as De’Juan Garrett went in from 13 yards out after caroming off a couple of tacklers.
But De La Salle wasn’t done yet. Custer went 81 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 26-21. A flag was thrown, but it was after the play for a sideline infraction and enforced on the kickoff.
When the Spartans got the ball back, they started on their own 18-yard-line with 5:24 remaining. As De La Salle began to move, a holding call negated a first down on third-and-6, setting up a third-and-16 with 1:58 remaining. De La Salle completed a 14-yard pass and was faced with fourth-and-2 with 1:32 left. A 6-yard dive play gave the Spartans the first down.
A bad snap cost De La Salle on first down and then it was forced to spike it to stop the clock. On a third-and-14 play with 43 seconds remaining from the Trinity 33, the Spartans went for a double pass, but the ball was overthrown.
With no timeouts on fourth down, De La Salle quarterback Anthony Sweeney misfired on the wide receiver in the end zone to turn the ball over to Trinity on downs.
Trinity lined up in victory formation and took a knee. With former head coach and five-time state champion Steve Lineweaver watching on his television, his replacement thanked him for what he had built to make it easy to be proud to be a Trinity Trojan.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Jensen stated. “I’m proud of our school, and I’m proud of the program that coach Lineweaver built. I know he was watching and he was pulling for us, so we all wanted tonight to be a night where we’d make him proud, because without him we wouldn’t had the opportunity we had tonight.”
Contributing: Jimmy Isbell, TexasHSFootball.com