Victory No. 399 in the legendary 33-year coaching career of Bob Ladouceur from Concord De La Salle produced scenes of relief and celebration Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.
With 47 seconds to play, after the Spartans got their fourth touchdown from running back Tiapepe Vitale in a 48-28 victory over Corona Centennial in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game, Ladouceur embraced his assistant coaches, removed his headset and started receiving hugs en masse.
His smile was genuine as he raised the championship trophy from a stage in the middle of the field. Then, he told reporters it "could be" his final game as coach but he'll make a decision after the holidays.
No team has made De La Salle (15-0) work harder on a consistent basis during their bowl matchups than Centennial (14-2), which lost to the Spartans in 2007, beat them in 2008 and scored more points against them Saturday than any team this season.
Ladouceur's offered strong words of praise for Centennial and Coach Matt Logan.
"Nobody really stopped them well all season," he said. "I thought our defense stopped them enough, gave us good opportunities. They're tough to prepare for. They're tough to play. I have a lot of respect for them. They have a good team."
It was the fourth consecutive Open Division bowl victory for De La Salle, which had 455 yards and had two players surpass the 100-yard rushing mark in Vitale (143 yards) and Das Tautalatasi (121).
Centennial players and coaches were wondering what could have been. De La Salle didn't play its best game, losing two of its six fumbles and committing 12 penalties for 80 yards, but the Huskies lost three fumbles, committed 12 penalties for 91 yards and fell too far behind at the outset, trailing, 28-0.
"If we would have played more mistake-free football, I think we would have won," standout offensive lineman Cameron Hunt said.
Added Logan: "The breaks didn't quite go our way. That's the bottom line."
Junior quarterback Robert Webber completed 19 of 43 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Twice he completed touchdown passes on fourth down.
Centennial was trying to knock off its fourth consecutive unbeaten team after victories over Upland, Vista Murrieta and Harbor City Narbonne.
It was a long, grueling season for everyone involved, the first time in state history that teams played a 16-game schedule over 17 weeks.
"It's been a brutal year, but it's been a great year," Hunt said.
With Webber, running back Tre Watson and receiver Barry Ware among the returnees, Centennial could make another bowl run in 2013.
"We'll enjoy this season for a while, then get right back to work," Logan said.
De La Salle fans will be waiting to hear if Ladouceur also will return to work.