Luke Dermon, Charles Greer Star As De La Salle Overcomes Early Deficit To Oust Pittsburg In North Coast Section Open Division Final •
After 20-plus minutes of intense, focused pregame warm-ups, the De La Salle High football team jogged off the Owen Owens Field turf and gathered in an outdoor quad area on the Concord campus.
Then for approximately two to three minutes, many of the players enjoyed a few moments of levity. Some chatted boisterously with teammates, while others allowed themselves to groove to the drum beat of the De La Salle Marching Band passing by as it made its way out to the field.
Then that moment was over. And the Spartans went back to business. The business of winning North Coast Section titles.
On Friday night, that business was still thriving as De La Salle erased an early deficit and defeated a talented Pittsburg team 42-14 to claim the Open Division title. It was the program’s 29th consecutive NCS crown.
“It feels awesome to follow in the footsteps of everyone who has come before us,” De La Salle senior quarterback Luke Dermon said. “It’s good to keep that tradition going.”
In a season that saw the Spartans’ 318-game NorCal unbeaten streak end in a loss at St. Francis-Mountain View, the program’s NCS unbeaten streak will live on for another season. It will sit at 259 when the 2022 season arrives next fall.
De La Salle (10-2) didn’t get off to its cleanest start Friday night. The Spartans turned the ball over on the game’s opening possession. Pittsburg’s Nicholas Quintero recovered a fumbled exchange between Dermon and his center, setting up the Pirates at the De La Salle 36-yard line.
Pittsburg (8-2) took advantage by scoring on a 21-yard pass from Jaden Rashada to Rashid Williams just eight plays later. The 7-0 lead would last the duration of the first quarter.
RELATED: Listen To Coach Justin Alumbaugh Talk About De La Salle’s Growth This Season On The Latest 7 Friday Night Podcast Episode.
AJ Bianchina scored the Spartans’ first touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter, finishing a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard run. De La Salle took the lead for good when Dermon scored on a 7-yard with 3:48 left in half. Then after a quick 3-and-out for the Pittsburg offense, Charles Greer took a swing pass 59 yards for a 21-7 Spartans lead.
“I got past the first defender and stiff-armed him,” Greer said. “When I got by him, I cut back and then it was just finding a way to outrun the rest of them.”
The Pirates weren’t ready to fold, and answered with their own 80-yard scoring drive behind the arm and legs of Rashada. The junior quarterback completed passes of 30 and 28 yards and added a 13-yard run that brought Pittsburg to the De La Salle 9-yard line. From there, he hit Williams in the corner of the end zone with seven seconds left in the half.
“He’s a really good player,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said of Rashada after the game. “That’s a good team over there.”
De La Salle’s opening drive of the second half ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Dermon to tight end Cooper Flanagan. Dermon finished the night 5-for-5 passing for 104 yards and two touchdowns. The pass to Flanagan was immediately followed by a 33-yard interception return by Ronald Pierce for a commanding 35-14 lead.
“That was a huge play,” Alumabugh said of Pierce’s pick six. “He’s been getting better too. He took his lumps early on. But he’s getting a lot more coachable and more physical. He had a great re-route on that play and read it perfectly. That was kind of a backbreaker for them. After that we were in pretty good shape.”
Greer finished off the scoring with another electric play, cashing in on a 36-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 192 yards from scrimmage, 132 coming on the ground (on just 13 caries).
“Animal,” Dermon said when asked to describe Greer. “Complete beast. Really good kid too. He’s a grinder.”
Alumbaugh heaped praise on the senior running back as well.
“That was his best game. He’s been close,” the coach said. “The last three weeks we’ve been spending a lot of time together. … He was just missing some holes and trying to make the big play too much. I think he realized that when he just hits that hole and then uses his natural instincts, he’s pretty dang good.”
Pittsburg lifted its starters early in the fourth quarter, content to live another day — which it will be able to do under the new NCS playoff format. As the Open Div. runner-up, the Pirates will host Clayton Valley-Concord for the Div. I championship the day after Thanksgiving. It will be a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“I thought the kids fought hard tonight,” Pittsburg coach Victor Galli said. “We just needed to make some more plays. I think our guys know that they are a good football team and they can play with anybody. Hopefully we learn from this and have a few more games to go.”
As for De La Salle, the Spartans will have a bye next week and will be paying close attention to the Division I finals from both the Sac-Joaquin and Central Coast Sections. Both of those brackets have potential undefeated champions in Rocklin and St. Francis. Most assume that the latter, with its head-to-head win over the Spartans, would earn the CIF Open Division Bowl berth if it completes its section title run.
In that scenario, De La Salle would spend the first week of December preparing for a CIF Division I regional playoff.
“Whatever happens, we get to play,” Alumbaugh said. “I know this: We’re going to play a good team. We’re going to play a really good team soon, and that’s fun. So, whatever.
“We can just show up and work and get better and try to win every game that’s in front of us. We’ve come a long way. “