Last March Clayton Valley Charter High School football coach Tim Murphy was quite excited when he announced that a planned fall road trip to Las Vegas had fallen through and instead his Eagles were going to drive 4.7 miles to meet crosstown rival De La Salle High in the season-opening football game Aug. 30. Although they are two of the five high schools playing football in Concord, the Eagles and Spartans will not have faced each other since 2006 until they battle this Friday evening.
Last year was a big one for both teams as De La Salle won its fourth straight State Championship and 21st consecutive North Coast Section title in what turned out to be the final season for legendary coach Bob Ladouceur. Clayton Valley began a new era last fall after the retirement of long-time coach Herc Pardi by winning its first-ever NCS title and then falling just short of going to the State finals when Murphy’s team lost to Oakdale 27-24 in the inaugural State Regional Bowl Game last December.
This season it’s De La Salle with a new headman on the sidelines as 33-year-old Justin Alumbaugh has taken over for Ladouceur and finds his team ranked #1 in the country. Nothing like a little pressure for the new coach! To sum up the Ladouceur era that began in 1979, his Spartan teams won 29 NCS championships while losing 25 games and drawing three. His win total was 399.
Clayton Valley and DLS first played football against one another in 1986 in the NCS 3A semi-finals and then met 13 more times in league play. In 2004 the Concord schools drew 17-17 (see story page 10), the last time De La Salle failed to win a game against a Northern California opponent. That’s the only time DLS hasn’t prevailed over the Eagles and many of the games were not very close. Of course few others were defeating De La Salle with Ladouceur in charge.
Veteran high school football journalist Mitch Stephens of MaxPreps cannot recall a season opening game pitting two section champions from the same city against one another. Murphy says, “It’s how it should be with the Section champions—from the same city—playing one another.”
Alumbaugh and Murphy both lost outstanding players from last year’s championship teams and will be looking for new starters to join returnees to make their respective 2013 seasons successful.
Clayton Valley embraced Murphy’s wing gun offense last year to rack up 12 wins in 14 games along with Diablo Valley Athletic League and NCS titles. Running backs Joe Protheroe and Jesse Medrano carried the offense engineered by Protheroe’s younger brother Mike Protheroe at quarterback. All three are missing from the Eagle backfield as Joe Protheroe and Medrano are off to college and Mike Protheroe is no longer at CVCHS.
Now quarterbacking the Eagles is transfer Gabe Taylor, who last played two years ago as a sophomore at College Park. Junior running back Miles Harrison had a big season on the Eagles junior varsity last year and figures to take the lion’s share of the carries in the run-oriented offense. Senior Tanner Wraa is being touted as an all-around two-way threat. Kristen Mamea, who returns to CV, Ben Davis and Zack Dominguez will also be factors on offense.
Two-time all-DVAL lineman Justin Rogers is a Pac-12 recruit and will be joined by returning standouts Max Connor, Brenden Crabbe, Dylan Jue and Jax Carter on the line that opened the holes for the offensive fireworks to take place last fall.
Murphy’s no stranger to DLS. As the head man at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord from 1996-2000 he played his next-door neighbor in 1999 and 2000. Both times Ygnacio was very competitive with De La Salle for a half—actually leading 7-6 in 2000—before the likes of Kevin Simon and D. J. Williams took over in the second half. Murphy was successful at YVHS, winning the NCS 3A title in 1999 and three straight league titles but he was facing a De La Salle team in those years that was in the midst of its historic 151-game winning streak.
De LA Salle has won the last four CIF State Open Bowl Games—as well as being mythical national champions again in 2012 in various polls—and carries a 26-game winning streak into Friday’s match.
Alumbaugh lost graduated seniors like State Player of the Year Michael Hutchings, Victor Egu, DJ Moffitt and Tiapepe Vitale but the cupboard is never bare on Winton Dr. Quarterback Chris Williams will have Das Tautalatasi to carry the ball behind a line that features Sumner Houston and Larry Allen Jr., son of the recent Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman, along with Drew Sullivan, sophomore Boss Tagaloa and Kahlil McKenzie, son of the Oakland Raiders general manager.
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Owen Owens Field in Concord following a 5 o’clock JV game.
Clayton Valley will have an unanticipated additional week before its second game. The matchup with Castlemont of Oakland has been moved back to Sept. 13, originally a bye week for the Eagles. The extra time will give the Eagles a chance to celebrate an historic victory or learn lessons from a loss. Then again, maybe the teams will tie—again.