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VEER PERFECTION | De La Salle Goes Vintage In CIF Win VEER PERFECTION | De La Salle Goes Vintage In CIF Win
Focused Return To The Veer Offense, Dominant Defense Sends De La Salle Back To A CIF State Bowl After Shutout Of Clovis North PICTURE... VEER PERFECTION | De La Salle Goes Vintage In CIF Win

Focused Return To The Veer Offense, Dominant Defense Sends De La Salle Back To A CIF State Bowl After Shutout Of Clovis North

PICTURE ABOVE: Jackson Barth (77) leads the way as Derrick Blanche follows during the CIF 1-AA NorCal regional on Friday against Clovis North-Fresno. (Ben Enos photos)

Whether you evaluate it from an athletic standpoint or on a more personal level, the 2023 season has offered a lesson in perseverance for the De La Salle-Concord football team.

Through it all, the Spartans find themselves right back where they usually are.

Headed to state.

The final step in ensuring a return to California Interscholastic Federation state bowl weekend came against a Clovis North-Fresno team that brought a 13-0 record and Central Section Division 1 title along with it to Owen Owens Field.

What the Broncos found was the same brand of football that has flummoxed many a first-time visitor to De La Salle. 

The Spartans turned to their vintage veer rushing attack to set a physical tone on offense, played fast and aggressive on defense and in the end that yielded a 41-0 victory that sends De La Salle back to a state game for a record 16th time.


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De La Salle will play Mission Viejo in the CIF Division 1-AA final next weekend. The game site and day will be announced on Sunday.

De La Salle’s intentions for the NorCal final were clear from the very beginning. Running backs Derrick Blanche and Dominic Kelley split the load in the Spartans’ split-back veer, leading them down the field on a dominant 65-yard opening drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Toa Fa’avae.

De La Salle running back Derrick Blanche breaks a tackle
Derrick Blanche breaks a tackle from a falling Clovis North defender and heads upfield.

After Clovis North (13-1) went three-and-out on its opening possession, De La Salle (11-2) went on the attack yet again, scoring on a 2-yard run by Blanche to take a 13-0 lead. By the time the first quarter wrapped up, the Spartans owned a 142-11 advantage in total yards and had yet to even attempt a pass.

That dominance on the ground continued in the second quarter, eventually setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Fa’avae to Landon Cook. Fa’avae scored on a 1-yard plunge and Blanche added a 1-yard scoring run of his own to make it 33-0 at halftime. 

Blanche rushed for 145 yards on the evening without even touching the ball in the second half. Jaden Jefferson added an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and De La Salle finished the evening with a 348-206 advantage in total yards. 

What convinced De La Salle the veer would be successful? 

De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh credited two weeks of preparation as well as the continued maturation of Fa’avae in De La Salle’s offense.

“Toa’s been quarterbacking our team for a long time so we’re giving him a little bit more free reign to take a look at what the defense is giving us. We have a set of plays that he can check into and he was making the right decisions,” Alumbaugh said. “It wasn’t anything on (Clovis North). All the game film that we watched, we didn’t see one team go at them. Every game film that we saw, everybody was primarily spread and nobody was trying to get downhill. 

“So we figured hey, let’s get right after them, let’s get our offensive line off the ball, let’s attack them downhill as much as we possibly we can. That’s the veer. That’s what we did tonight and the results were good.”

De La Salle football, Jaden Jefferson runs the ball
Jaden Jefferson looks for a cutback lane. His 81-yard run completed the scoring on the night.

As the season has gone along, Alumbaugh has praised his team’s increased physicality as a primary area of growth.

Against the Broncos, that was especially evident. De La Salle won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball throughout the evening.

“We knew we needed to come out with physicality as a team,” Fa’avae said. “We knew this team hadn’t played a team like us that would come out hitting heads every play. We went with that game plan, came out and put all the effort onto the field and it translated.”

In a season that has featured some tremendous defense, the win over Clovis North certainly stands as one of De La Salle’s crowning achievements.

Most of the Broncos’ yardage came once the game was decided as the Broncos had just 37 total yards and one first down in the first half.

“It’s the best feeling ever,” said senior defensive lineman Chris Biller. “Putting all that work into practice all throughout January just to hold them to zero points is probably the best feeling. All that hard work and it actually pays off.”

Those are the on-field adjustments that have paid big dividends for the Spartans, but perhaps the greater triumph has come in the way the team has come together off the field.

The sudden death of defensive line coach Steve Jacoby midway through the year has also weighed heavy on the Spartans, testing the famous brotherhood that De La Salle has long been known for.

De La Salle football defense, Nemyah Telona and Niko Baumgartner make a tackle
Nike Baumgartner, right, and Nemyah Telona combine to stop a Clovis North running back.

“This group has faced more adversity than any team outside of the ‘04 team with (the death of) Terrance Kelly,” Alumbaugh said. “Obviously we started off with two hard losses to two great teams but they found a way to battle back. We lost one of our coaches. These guys have shown a lot of resilience, a lot of pride, a lot of guts. I’m very proud of them. 

“It’s hard to reflect back on it because it’s still going but I do know that I’m very proud of where we started to where we are and the toughness and the connectedness that this group has shown, it’s gratifying to coach these guys.”

One more win will mean that the Spartans get to add another state title to their already legendary history books.

By coming together to give themselves that chance, they’ve already accomplished plenty.

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Ben Enos

Ben Enos is a freelance journalist who has previously worked for Bay Area News Group and within the University of California Athletics Department.

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