Undaunted De La Salle marches on TV audience watches streak reach 145 winsBy Joe Stiglich
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
PLEASANT HILL - The stage keeps getting bigger. The lights keep getting brighter.
It doesn't make a bit of difference to the De La Salle High School football team.
Before an overflow crowd of more than 7,500 at Diablo Valley College, not to mention a nationwide audience watching live on ESPN2, the Spartans dismantled Evangel Christian Academy-Shreveport (La.) 27-10 on Friday, notching consecutive win No. 145 and showing fans around the country why they've dominated the prep football landscape over the past 12 years.
"I think we just showed what De La Salle is all about," Spartans linebacker Parker Hanks said. "This was for all the past players and everybody who passed through the program."
It was a much more dominant victory than the scoreboard indicated, though it didn't start out that way.
After Evangel (4-3) recovered a muffed punt by Cameron Colvin on the Spartans 42-yard line, Jared Jennings' 22-yard field goal gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead at 6:46 of the first quarter.
It was the first time De La Salle (7-0) trailed in a game since Ygnacio Valley forged a 7-6 lead in the second quarter on Oct. 27, 2000.
The Spartans answered with a crisp 78-yard touchdown drive and took control of the game.
"It was nothing big," said Colvin, who caught six passes for 75 yards after his early miscue. "We know we can put points on anybody. We didn't feel any pressure at all being behind 3-0."
The Spartans leaned on an overpowering running game and a clutch performance from backup quarterback Anthony Gutierrez, who came on after starter Kevin Lopina left in the second quarter with a knee injury.
The Spartans outgained Evangel 388-259 in total yardage but had a drastic 245-106 advantage in the first half, when they took a 19-3 lead.
After the Eagles' early field goal, De La Salle's defense put the clamps on Evangel's unorthodox shotgun attack, which relies greatly on trickery and deceptive ballhandling.
The Spartans, who have allowed just four touchdowns all season, surrendered just five first downs in the first half.
By the middle of the third quarter, those watching on television probably went searching for "MacGyver" re-runs.
"Their defensive line is the best I've ever seen," Evangel running back Jacob Hester said. "Their linebackers were reading everything to the corners and beat us there. The speed and strength those guys have is incredible."
Terrance Kelly (15 carries, 106 yards) scored on touchdown runs of 11 and 5 yards to give De La Salle a 13-3 lead.
Evangel then moved the ball into Spartans territory with time winding down in the second quarter when quarterback Denny Duron made a critical error.
With De La Salle's Kyle Balough bearing down on him, Duron uncorked an ill-advised pass that Mike Dominguez intercepted.
Gutierrez, a junior who completed his final eight passes and finished with 134 yards, threw a strike to Alex Stroud on a slant pattern for an 18-yard touchdown pass and 19-3 lead with 52.9 seconds left in the second.
Gutierrez went right back to work on De La Salle's first possession of the third quarter, hitting a wide-open Colvin on a post pattern for a 28-yard gain that set up Gutierrez's 1-yard scoring run. Gutierrez ran in the two-point conversion for a 27-3 lead.
Balough said he and his teammates fed off the electricity in the crowd and the ESPN cameras.
"It gets me juiced," he said. "This is the greatest thing in the world."