Jerry Haflich

Hometown Report: American River College coach recalls thrill of beating De La Salle

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 - 8:01 am

It has been 21 years, but it's still fresh for Jerry Haflich – and still meaningful to the American River College football coach.

Haflich can remember the schemes, names and results from a spirited night at the Oakland Coliseum when improvisation scored one for the underdog.

Long before he became ARC's coach, Haflich was the defensive coordinator for Pittsburg High School when the Pirates stunned De La Salle 35-27 to win the North Coast Section championship in 1991.

De La Salle apparently took the defeat to heart, launching a national-record 151-game winning streak that didn't end until a loss to Bellevue in Seattle in 2004.

That loss to Pittburg also was the last time De La Salle was beaten by a Northern California opponent, going 234-0-2 since.

On Saturday night at Sacramento State, Folsom gets the chance to end that streak when it plays De La Salle in the first Northern California Open division championship game.

And Haflich has some advice for Folsom: Do something different; be innovative and daring.

"Oh yeah, I remember 1991," Haflich said. "Before that season, we asked ourselves who the toughest team on our schedule was. That was easy: De La Salle. So we decided, 'Let's put in a plan for them now, months ahead.' That's how good they were and still are. We desperately wanted to beat them. We had to find a way."

The 1991 Pittsburg coaches – head man Herc Pardi, offensive coordinator Joe Aliotti and his brother-in-law Haflich – discovered that in De La Salle's previous three losses, a trick play or sudden change in formations surprised the Spartans.

In 1984, Skyline of Oakland used a fake field goal and fake point-after en route to a 22-21 victory. In 1989, El Cerrito ditched its familiar I-back for wing-T formations in the second half in a 14-13 upset.

And in 1987, a "fumblerooski" out of punt formation and a trick play on a two-point conversion led to a 14-13 playoff win for Monte Vista of Danville.

In 1991, it was Pittsburg's turn. Against De La Salle in the title game, Haflich went with a 5-2 defensive alignment after years of going with a 4-4. Aliotti went from Power I offensive formations to variations of what is now known as the spread in the second half.

Pittsburg had an interception return for a score and sealed the victory on a late sack and fumble recovery to snap De La Salle's 34-game winning streak.

The team bus took a victory lap in Pittsburg, with the driver blasting the horn and players leaning out the window to offer high-fives.

Players and coaches were presented proclamations.

"Our town went crazy," Haflich said. "What a wild experience. The town was so hungry, and so were we as a football program. So was all of Northern California."

Haflich said the victory and aftermath also taught him a valuable lesson.

"We got drilled by De La Salle twice the next year (44-7 in the regular season, 41-6 in the playoffs), and it was 'Ouch. Wow. They sure showed us!' " Haflich said. "Success was fleeting. All of a sudden, it was gone. For De La Salle to keep winning like it has, it's a great tribute to those kids, to those coaches. Just incredible."

Haflich will be at Sac State for Saturday's game. He'll bear-hug Aliotti, now a veteran coach on De La Salle's staff. And, yes, the 1991 game will come up. It does every time they meet.

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Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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