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With 2014 about the De La Salle offense, a hungry Spartans defense is ready to make 2015 different   By CHACE BRYSON | Editor...

With 2014 about the De La Salle offense, a hungry Spartans defense is ready to make 2015 different

  By CHACE BRYSON | Editor

  First there were hugs and smiles. Then there was an apology.

  For longtime De La Salle High defensive coordinator Terry Eidson, the end of the 2014 California Interscholastic Federation Open Division State Bowl game was an array of conflicting emotions. The Spartans had just defeated Centennial-Corona for the school’s sixth CIF State Bowl title, but they did so despite surrendering 42 points and 534 yards of total offense.
It was the most points an Eidson-coached defense had ever surrendered in his three-plus decades of coaching the unit.

  “To be honest, I was embarrassed with the kind of defensive showing we put out there,” Eidson said following a practice in early August. “I felt the offense was doing everything it could. After the game, I went to (head coach) Justin (Alumbaugh) and I basically said ‘I’m sorry that we did that to you. That we gave up so many points and made it so hard on the team.’”

  It wasn’t a total and complete defensive failure. Some may note that the defense forced three turnovers in the second half, which turned the tide and helped lead to the 63-42 victory.

  But that was mere consolation in Eidson’s eyes.

  “It was great to win and I’m glad everybody celebrated,” he said. “It’s just the way I am. I can’t celebrate if we play like that. … I was happy for the kids and seniors that won, but I have a lot of pride in what we do and I just felt that we didn’t show up that game.”

  Alumbaugh remembers the apology well.

  “You don’t hear Terry Eidson apologize too often,” the coach said with a laugh. “I understood why he was upset, and as the head coach I wasn’t happy with the way the defense performed either. We talked about it. Looking at last year as a disappointment in any way, shape or form is probably sort of the wrong way to look at it. But on the flip side, that’s what makes Terry such a good coach. He cares.”

  L to R: Devin Asiasi, Damon Wiley and Boss TagaloaFortunately for Eidson, much of the core to that defense was back training in mid-January and looking forward to 2015. There were several juniors on that roster, and they shared a good deal of Eidson’s frustration.

  “My biggest thing was that (Centennial) scored way too many points and got way too many yards,” said senior Damon Wiley, who returns at defensive end this season and was specific to note that his unit did 42 push-ups a day over the offseason. “All in all, though, it was a great learning experience and we can only grow from it as a team.”

  More good news for Eidson: Wiley, a spark-plug defensive end at 6-feet, 230 pounds, led De La Salle with 14.5 sacks last year. Returning to the defensive line alongside Wiley are a pair of four-star recruits, Boss Tagaloa (6-3, 305 pounds) and Devin Asiasi (6-5, 255), who are each fielding offers from Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC schools.

  Tagaloa is the first four-year varsity player in the history of the storied De La Salle program. His junior year was hampered some by a broken fibula he sustained in the summer following his sophomore season. Now 100 percent healthy, the two-way lineman is looking to cause havoc for opponents.

  “A lot of people are going to have trouble blocking him 1-on-1,” Eidson said. “He’s going to occupy two guys, and even then I like our chances. He’s been working hard in the weight room, he’s got great strength, great leverage, great work ethic and great attitude. He’s everything you want in a defensive player. I’m looking forward to watching him. We’re having trouble blocking him in practice, I’ll tell you that.”

  Asiasi is coming off of a season in which he not only started at tight end and defensive end, he also filled in as the backup quarterback. He scored the final touchdown against Centennial on a quarterback sweep after starter Chris Vanderklugt was injured late in the fourth quarter.

  He most likely projects to play tight end at the college level, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the top pass rushers in the section when Eidson gets to use him.

  “Devin and I have been grinding together at defensive end since Day 1,” Wiley said. “He’s just a true athlete with a great head on his shoulders. … Honestly, both (he and Tagaloa) make me better everyday because I see where I’m at, and I see where I want to be.”

  Behind the strength of the defensive line, De La Salle’s defensive redemption will get help from a strong group of players in the secondary that includes juniors Tre White and Elijah Short, along with seniors Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez. Custer and Hernandez are also the starting running backs who combined for 54 TDs a season ago. The Spartans coaching staff is often cautious about stretching two-way guys, so developing more depth in the secondary is a priority.

  Damon WileyThe linebackers have experience as well, including seniors Joe Vranesh and Keanu Andrade. They will be relied upon to shore up a unit that struggled some last year after losing three-year player Simba Short to injury in the season-opener.

  “Our linebackers have to be more disciplined this season,” Alumbaugh said. “To be honest, we were out of position a lot.”

  There won’t be a lot of time for trial and error. The Spartans, due in large part to the amount of experience returning on both sides of the ball, begin the year ranked No. 1 in the nation by And the Spartans are playing a schedule befitting a nationally-ranked team.

  De La Salle opens the season on Aug. 29 in a nationally-televised game against its first ever Texas opponent. The Spartans will travel to Dallas where they’ll face off against perennial state power Trinity-Euless. The rest of the schedule includes home games against Southern California powers Servite-Anaheim, Lutheran-Orange and Long Beach Poly. NorCal opponents include Serra-San Mateo, Granite Bay, Del Oro-Loomis and California-San Ramon.

  “It’s quite a challenge,” Eidson admitted. “But if you’re going to put all this time in, why not challenge yourself? If you’re a high school kid, how could you not want to play a schedule like this?”

  If history has shown anything about this program, it will embrace the challenge. And if Wiley, Tagaloa, Asiasi and the rest of the returning talent have their way, there will be no need for apologies.

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