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  • Bob Ladouceur The coach won 399 games and lost just 25 at De La Salle High School.

  • Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: Del Oro faces its toughest test in De La Salle

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 - 8:13 am

Del Oro football coach Casey Taylor and his staff aren't easily awed, but this was something else.

This was De La Salle, a nationally known football team from Concord that seemingly is without flaw.

Taylor and company had a bye Friday night, so they went to Stockton and watched De La Salle's 40-13 rout of St. Mary's and then headed back to Loomis deep in thought. How do you beat the unbeatable? How do you deal with the lines, the linebackers, the skill players, the schemes, the tradition?

Del Oro fears no opponent, willing to schedule all comers, but playing De La Salle Friday is as difficult as it gets, and everyone who has played the Spartans has the same assessment.

"Oh, man, they're amazing," said Taylor, who has won three Sac-Joaquin Section championships since 2005 and made it to the 2011 CIF Division II Bowl game. "We have a good team, and we've stressed the urgency of sticking around early against them and making it a game entering the fourth quarter. We've wanted to play them, to see where we are as a program. I mean, they're the best high school program … ever."

Del Oro opened the season with a victory over Logan of Union City, then lost to Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks. With games against Grant and St. Mary's of Stockton still ahead, plus the Sierra Foothill League schedule, it's easy to ask, "Why De La Salle?"

Taylor counters, "Why not?"

De La Salle presents the ultimate challenge – and opportunity.

The Spartans (3-0) have finished ranked No. 1 nationally nine times since 1991, including last season, and No. 1 in the state 17 times since 1987. And they've won the last four CIF State Open Bowl championships.

De La Salle has not lost to a Northern California team since 1991, a streak of 240 games.

Wait, there's more.

De La Salle is 321-5-2 against Northern California competition since 1984, 33-0 lifetime against Sac-Joaquin Section teams and 5-0 against teams from the Sacramento area.

This season, De La Salle could be as good as ever, particularly on the lines, where Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen's son by the same name wreaks havoc with Kahlil McKenzie, son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

After last season, Justin Alumbaugh, a longtime Spartans assistant, replaced Bob Ladouceur, who remains on staff.

Ladouceur won a state-record 399 games and had more North Coast Section championships (28) than losses (25). Ladouceur, ever so humble, said he felt remorse for not turning over the program to Alumbaugh years ago, saying Alumbaugh, 34, "passed me up" on a lot of coaching ideals.

That's typical of Ladouceur, whom the late Bill Walsh once said "is as fine a coach as the game has ever seen."

Alumbaugh sits across from his mentor and friend in the coaching offices at De La Salle, and coaching pals on campus joke to the rookie coach, "Just don't freakin' lose, man."

A movie about Ladouceur is in the works, focusing on the 12-year, 151-game winning streak that ended in 2004, which embarrasses Ladouceur more than it flatters him. The Spartans, as usual, continue to downplay their success while others admire it.

"Probably the best thing about all of this is that the De La Salle coaches, staff and players don't strut about any of it – ever," said Mark Tennis, the longtime editor of Cal-Hi Sports and a high school sports historian. "It's just, next game, next play, next season constantly stressed. It's never about the results and always about the process."

The Spartans are teens who put on their game pants one leg at a time like everyone else – and they're very human.

De La Salle's Northern California streak nearly ended Sept. 7 against rival Serra of San Mateo. The Spartans rallied late to win 21-14.

Following the win over St. Mary's, Alumbaugh continued to challenge his team, telling reporters, "We didn't wake up; Serra woke us up. We were a soulless, gutless team (against Serra). The reason why is we didn't practice well and we weren't coming together as a team. We have a lot of potential, but we can be taken down by any of the teams that we're playing on our schedule."

Next up: Del Oro.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD, check out his PrepsPlus Insider every Monday at blogs.sacbee.com/preps and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

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