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A second chance

Concord De La Salle is back in the Division I state bowl game, a year after the Spartans were stunned by Canyon Country Canyon

December 12, 2007|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

As Concord De La Salle concluded its 37-0 victory over San Ramon California in the North Coast Section 4A championship game on Saturday, Spartans supporters no doubt were shouting, "We're No. 1."

A better cry would have been, "We're coming back."

De La Salle (12-0) is the only team of the six in last year's inaugural CIF state bowl championship games lineup to return for Round 2 this weekend. The Spartans, Northern California's representative, will play Corona Centennial (13-1), the Southern Section's Inland Division champion, in the Division I game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The Spartans, ranked No. 1 in the state by and third nationally by USA Today, have unfinished business. Last year, they were ranked No. 1 nationally when they were upset by Canyon Country Canyon, 27-13, in the Division I bowl championship game. According to Coach Bob Ladouceur, De La Salle played its worst game of the 2006 season that day.

"I felt we came into the game physically and emotionally flat," said Ladouceur, talking with reporters Monday from the Home Depot Center.

"I was so angry for a while as to how we played," he said. "I was disappointed with the kids, with me, our staff. . . . Hindsight's always that perfect science, and I wish I'd done some things differently, but it's a learning experience."

One of the things he learned, Ladouceur said, was that the Spartans' veer option running offense needed diversification. So this season, he and his staff have added elements of the spread offense, which is designed to stretch defenses across the field and create gaps that can be exploited by quick receivers and fast running backs.

"I think it's very effective if you've got the personnel to run it," Ladouceur said. "I didn't think I had it last year to do it."

Ladouceur has also employed a two-quarterback system this season.

Senior Mike MacGillivray has thrown for 1,041 yards and 18 touchdowns with only one interception. Junior Blake Wayne is the better runner -- his 490 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 77 carries are third on the team behind senior running back Tito Pica, who has 1,035 yards and 15 touchdowns in 100 carries, and junior running back Kylan Butler, who has 683 yards and 13 touchdowns in 83 carries.

"I'd never really done this before so I didn't know what I was doing when I started out," Ladouceur said about alternating MacGillivray and Wayne.

"I said, 'I'll play you both and see who moves the ball the best.' I told them the best scenario is: 'You'll both do well and I'll play both of you.' And that's how it's played out."

MacGillivray, who started last year's game against Canyon, said the team kept a poster reminding it of the loss in the weight room for motivation.

"It's been the main focus of our season," MacGillivray said. "Last year, we definitely thought we were better than we were and treated it like another game. We came back this season with a new attitude. We want a different result. We feel we have to redeem ourselves."

Tight end/linebacker Brady Amack agreed: "We've all been eager to get another shot at it."

Still, De La Salle will have its hands full trying to slow Centennial. The Huskies, ranked second in the state and 14th nationally, average 47.5 points a game.

"Centennial is going to be the best team we've played this season by far," Ladouceur said. "They have played good competition. They are very physical, and speedy too. It's going to be a tough game for us to win."

Centennial Coach Matt Logan was complimentary of De La Salle.

"The precision of their execution [on offense] and how they come off the ball is impressive," he said. "They always have a guy who can run it. But the level of intensity their offensive and defensive lines play with is amazing."

Saturday's game figures to be high scoring, but whatever the outcome, Ladouceur promised his team would play with more energy, focus and intensity than it did last year.

"Whether it matters or not, I don't know," he said. "But these guys have been pointing to this game, and they wanted to get into it."


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