Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
Each week, Utah high school sports provides incredibly exciting moments, big wins, great plays and memorable accomplishments. This year, PrepsUtah.com will do its best to identify THE top story of each week in a segment powered by TOSH, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital.
East delivers major upset in Bay Area
Sept. 27, 2008. On that date nearly eight years ago, De La Salle High School in Concord, California last lost a game on its home field.
That year and 2013 are also the only times in recent memory the Spartans didn’t win the California state championship. The loss came at the hands of Don Bosco Prep from New Jersey, a team that also beat DLS on the east coast in 2009, the last year the Spartans lost twice in the same year.
In 2010, 2012 and 2014, De La Salle ran the table and in 2011, it lost only in Florida to St. Thomas Aquinas. On Dec. 21, 2013, the Spartans lost to St. John Bosco in the CIF Open Division Bowl and last year, their only defeat came at the hands of Trinity of Euless, Texas on Aug. 29, 2015.
This Bay Area private school football program has been so dominant that it got the attention of Hollywood. The 2014 movie When The Game Stands Tall focused on former DLS coach Bob Lacouceur and a 151-game winning streak that ran from 1992 to 2003.
Why does all of this matter? This team that has dominated high school football in the state of California welcomed the East Leopards to Northern California Friday night. While the Spartans have lost 7-of-10 to teams from out of state, other than that one 2008 blemish, those losses happened far from their California home.
On Friday night, DLS got out to an early lead, but East answered primarily thanks to that dominating offensive line and the running of senior Jaylen Warren. Then, the Spartans seemed to be set up for a narrow victory.
With just 3:10 remaining in the contest, East took possession of the ball at its own 5-yard-line, down one point at 21-20. Since the Leopards don’t really throw the ball, covering that distance in that amount of time against a team that skilled seemed all but impossible, but not for these Leopards.
A few Warren runs did some damage and there was a huge third down conversion that came in the most improbable of ways, courtesy a 24-yard pass completion from Ben Ford to Tyler Eteuati. With :01 showing on the clock, Matt Barker split the uprights with a 39-yard field goal that put the Leopards on top 23-21. Following a scramble to finally end a wild DLS kick-off return, East celebrated a huge upset of one of the country’s most celebrated football powers.
Barker was one of the game’s huge stars. The game-winner was his third made field goal of the night. Warren showed that his talent shines through against all comers as he ran for 256 yards on 26 carries with a pair of touchdown runs.
Ford threw it just seven times, but he completed five of them for 122 yards and he also ran for 42 yards for the Leopards. Charlie Vincent carried nine times for 52 yards as East piled up 525 yards of total offense, with 413 of those coming via the ground game, but Vincent also turned his one pass reception into a 64-yard gain.
The group holding DLS to just 21 points was led by Moa Heimuli (nine tackles) and Sati Tu’uhetaufa (eight tackles). The defense did some impressive work.
For East (5-0), the win comes on the heels of last week’s home win over Pulaski Academy, one of Arkansas’ best teams. It’s a combination that is among the most impressive back-to-back results in memory.
Next week, East returns to region play and it will have to hold its focus when the stage gets smaller, but this team is absolutely for real and the Leopards are set up for a run at consecutive state title No. 2.