De La Salle football has played its share of heavyweights, but it embarks on new ground Aug. 29
Throughout its storied history, the De La Salle High football team hasn’t shied away from playing a tough opponent or lining up under the glare of the bright lights.
This time, it’s a little bit different, and a trip to the heartland of high school football is poised to give fans a showdown they’ve long clamored for.
De La Salle opens its 2015 season on Aug. 29 when it travels to the greater Dallas area for a nationally televised matchup with traditional Texas power Trinity-Euless. For those who’ve followed the Spartans through all the wins, state titles and even a movie, the trip represents a long-rumored but never completed test in the backyard of perhaps the most fervent high school football fans in the nation.
So, when the Spartans turn out of the Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport and make the 27-mile trek down the President George Bush Turnpike to Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield, they’ll do so with the nation watching. Head coach Justin Alumbaugh’s squad begins the season ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.com, and in Trinity, it will find itself faced with a three-time Texas state champion that is as traditional a power as De La Salle could face.
Just how long has a trip to Texas existed in the proverbial rumor mill?
“Since we’ve been going out of state, realistically,” Alumbaugh said. “There’s the appeal of high school football in Texas and since we’ve been playing out of state, it hasn’t been the first thing people have mentioned, but it’s something that’s been brought up here and there.”
As is normally the case with big, out-of-state high school football games these days, ESPN played the part of middle-man in negotiations. The network came to Alumbaugh and athletic director Leo Lopoz with the idea, did the same with Trinity and the wheels started turning. Once the Spartans figured out how to mitigate the cost, missed class time and other key logistics, the game was set.
While starting a season against such a good opponent might not be the ideal way to jump back into action, scheduling the Trojans for a week zero game did carry with it one important advantage: scouting. Alumbaugh and his staff have had all summer to study their first opponent, which means preparation shouldn’t be an issue when the 2015 season finally kicks off.
“I called coach (Chris) Jensen, their new head coach, and we talked for a little bit,” Alumbaugh said. “The typical thing is to exchange a couple games but they didn’t know much about us and we didn’t know much about them so we agreed to exchange the whole year. We both played 14 games last year, so we both agreed to exchange our entire year of film. So, we know a lot about them and I’m guessing they know a lot about us now.”
What Alumbaugh found on film was a team that, in many respects, played a lot like his own even if the sizes aren’t necessarily the same. Physicality at the line serves as a hallmark for the Trojans just as it does the Spartans and that drove Alumbaugh, who coaches the offensive line himself at De La Salle, to admit “If we weren’t playing them, I’d appreciate it quite a bit as an offensive line coach.”
On paper, Trinity returns several key building blocks that De La Salle will have to account for. Defensive tackle Chris Daniels is rated a four-star recruit by both Scout and Rivals and owns scholarship offers from almost every big school in the nation. Quarterback Tyler Natee, who checks in at 6-foot and 240 pounds, is rated a three-star athlete by Scout, while running back Ja’Ron Wilson also checks in with three stars.
While De La Salle can try to account for personnel, it will also try to devise a solid game plan when it comes to travel.
When the Spartans traveled to Florida in 2011 to take on another national power, St. Thomas Aquinas-Fort Lauderdale, nothing went right in a 30-6 loss to the Raiders. A lightning storm delayed the game over an hour, humidity sapped the energy of nearly everyone on the sideline, and starting running back Das Tautalatasi went down with an injury that forced him to forgo his role on offense for much of the season.
“We’ve just got to prepare the best we can,” Alumbaugh said. “We always condition hard and work our kids hard but we’ve been really diligent about that. We’re trying to get them in as good of shape as possible. There’s only so much you can do to prepare for it to be hot and humid. We’re going to have to have multiple guys ready. We have some two-way guys, but that early in the season, in that type of heat, you can’t count on those guys going both ways the whole game. It’s just illogical. So, we’re going to have to have some other guys ready.”
— SportStars Staff
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