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De La Salle Dances Away

Northern California football team runs national-record winning streak to 130 games with an easy 28-7 victory over Long Beach Poly.

October 13, 2002|Ben Bolch | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — Before its players can dance off the field, before its coach can legitimately call it the greatest victory in school history, Concord De La Salle High is going to have to find some stiffer competition.

The Spartans handled Long Beach Poly for a second consecutive season with their 28-7 victory Saturday afternoon before an estimated 14,000 at California's Memorial Stadium. The victory over what is purported to be their greatest challenger touched off an unnecessarily wild celebration.

But the game--and the series--between what widely have been considered the top two teams in the country these last two seasons has been about as compelling as a James Garner film festival.

Consensus No. 1 De La Salle (5-0) scored on its first possession, built a 28-point lead before the end of the third quarter and--gasp!--gave up a meaningless Poly touchdown in stretching its national-record winning streak to 130 games. The Spartans have outscored the Jackrabbits, 57-22, in the teams' two meetings.

Quarterback Britt Cecil, who had yet to throw a scoring pass before Saturday, connected on three touchdown passes and ran for another score in becoming the latest unknown to etch his name in Spartan lore. The 5-foot-11 senior completed 12 of 17 passes for a career-high 237 yards.

"He was unbelievable," said De La Salle Coach Bob Ladouceur, who freely piled on the superlatives afterward. "That ranks up there as one of the top performances for a De La Salle quarterback."

Running back Maurice Drew complemented the passing attack by rushing for 161 yards in 19 carries, including a 13-yard gain on the Spartans' first series in which he spun away from a defender and somehow managed to stay on his feet. Cecil bulled ahead for a one-yard touchdown on the next play.

"The difference was Drew. He was phenomenal," Poly Coach Raul Lara said. "We stressed that we needed to tackle him, and apparently we didn't do that."

The Jackrabbits (4-1) made a few spectacular plays of their own, including a converted fake punt, but were unable to sustain drives past midfield in the first half. Poly reached De La Salle territory twice before being besieged by dropped passes, penalties and an inability to run the football. The Jackrabbits managed two yards rushing in the first half and trailed, 14-0, at halftime.

After being sacked three times in the first half, Poly quarterback Leon Jackson showed renewed confidence early in the third quarter as he completed two passes to Jeremiah Toloumu for first downs. But after a short loss on a run and two incompletions, the Jackrabbits had to punt.

De La Salle broke the game open on its next series when Cecil connected with De'Montae Fitzgerald on a medium-range pass at the Spartan 44-yard line, but Fitzgerald picked up a couple of blocks to turn the play into a 73-yard touchdown.

Cecil hooked up with Terrance Kelly on a 36-yard touchdown on De La Salle's next series to make it 28-0 with 3 minutes 26 seconds left in the third quarter.

Undeterred, Poly marched from its own 20 to the Spartan 1, where it had a first and goal. But on second down, the snap squirted past Jackson and was recovered by Drew at the nine.

"It hurts. It hurts me," said Lara. "It's hard for me to sit up here and smile. I thought we were ready for this game, but apparently [De La Salle] was a lot better than us today."

Poly scored its touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Lorenzo Bursey took a short pass from Jackson and extended his arms across the goal line for a 16-yard score. Jackrabbit defensive back Rodney Van recovered an onside kick with nine minutes to go, and Poly suddenly owned a sliver of hope.

But any thoughts of a colossal comeback quickly dissipated when the Jackrabbits failed to convert a first down on their ensuing drive.

With Poly out of the way--the Jackrabbits and Spartans likely won't meet again until 2005 at the earliest--the Spartans can set their sights on doubling the previous record winning streak of 72 games, set by Hudson (Mich.) High from 1968-75. That could happen by the middle of next season.

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