On Saturday Santa Ana Mater Dei found out what 78 previous Concord De La Salle opponents already knew.
When it comes to football, the Spartans can't be beat.
De La Salle, ranked No. 1 in the state and the nation, defeated Mater Dei, 28-21, before 20,781 at Edison Field. But the Monarchs did not go without a fight.
After Mater Dei (2-1) was shut down in the first half and with the Monarchs trailing by 14 points, quarterback Scott Lukash connected with receiver Kelvin Millhouse on a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes, the second covering 74 yards and tying the score at 21-21.
But in the fourth quarter, on a third-and-32 play from their own 19, the Spartans (3-0) got the game's biggest play. Running back Atari Callen's 58-yard run took the ball to the Monarch 23, setting up the winning touchdown. Quarterback Vinny Padilla scored on a nine-yard keeper with 10:38 to play.
Mater Dei had one last chance. But with 1:37 left, Lukash was sacked by the Spartans' Angel Lopez and fumbled. Linebacker Andrew Munoz fell on the loose ball to preserve De La Salle's 79th consecutive victory, a national record.
The last close game for De La Salle was in 1993, the second year of the streak. Then-quarterback Mike Bastianelli, now a USC receiver, threw a touchdown pass to tight end Nathan Geldermann with less than a minute to play in a 26-21 victory over Pittsburg--the last team to beat the Spartans, back in 1991.
On this night, Callen was the star, rushing for 150 yards in 19 carries, catching four passes for 56 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
After a cold first half, Lukash wound up passing for 172 yards, completing eight of 14.
Mater Dei tried to surprise the visitors with an onside kick to start the game, but De La Salle recovered at its own 34. The Spartans immediately drove 66 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a fourth-down, 16-yard touchdown pass from Padilla to Callen.
Mater Dei's lone first-half score was set up when De La Salle running back D.J. Williams fumbled at the Spartan 10. Matt Grootegood came in at quarterback, and on an option keeper run straight up the middle and into the end zone to tie the score at 7-7.
The second quarter belonged to the Spartans, as Callen and Williams began chewing up yardage.
After the Spartans recovered a second onside kick at their 38, Williams ran 24 yards to move the ball into Monarch territory. Four plays later, Callen scored on a 17-yard run.
The Spartan defense--which held Mater Dei to 24 total yards in the first half--forced another punt. This time De La Salle took its time, grinding up 72 yards in 12 plays, and Williams made the score 21-7 on a 10-yard pass from Padilla.