MOUNTAIN VIEW — Has an early-season victory for De La Salle ever felt so good?
In their first trip to St. Francis since their historic loss there two years ago, the Spartans had to dig deep Friday night to avoid what would have been the program’s first 0-3 start in 48 years.
Clinging to a four-point lead with less than nine minutes to go, the Concord powerhouse finally dialed up the plays that pushed the team to victory.
When it ended, De La Salle prevailed 35-17 as quarterback Toa Faavae ran for three touchdowns and Dominic Kelley carried 25 times for 135 yards and one TD.
“I am happy for these kids,” coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “It’s a young group. We’re trying to learn how to win. It’s very gratifying. It was awesome to see our offensive line look like a De La Salle offensive line. We were getting off the ball, and our runners looked like De La Salle runners. They were breaking tackles.
“This was a De La Salle win against a very good team. Those guys are good. They’re going to win a lot of games this year.”
De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae (13) celebrates his 4th quarter touchdown on a 12-yard keeper against St. Francis, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Mountain View, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
The outcome was still up for grabs when St. Francis’ Christopher Han kicked a 26-yard field goal to pull the home team to within 21-17 with 8:49 remaining.
The ensuing kickoff appeared to be going out of bounds when one of De La Salle’s speedsters, Johnathan Guerrero, picked up the ball at the 4 and found running room along the sideline.
Forty-six yards later, De La Salle (1-2) had the ball at the 50.
“That was huge,” Alumbaugh said. “I was yelling at him to let it go out of bounds. But then he grabbed it and I saw a lane. I shut up.”
From there, De La Salle pounded the rock, as they say, behind its line and Kelley. The junior carried seven times in the first eight plays of that series, giving the Spartans a first down at the 12.
Kelley thought he was getting the ball again on the next snap but Faavae had a trick up his sleeve.
Trying to convince Alumbaugh throughout the game to run a bootleg, the quarterback got the green light and fooled everyone on the field as he coasted around the left end for a touchdown that gave De La Salle its first double-digit lead of the season.
“Coming off a 0-2, we needed something to bring us back,” Faavae said. “This definitely was a great opportunity for us to get back on track for what we need to do on the season.”
De La Salle entered the game having lost to Orange Lutheran 35-14 and Serra 28-0 — both ranked nationally by MaxPreps — and had gone seven consecutive quarters without scoring.
The Spartans hadn’t held a lead this season until Derrick Blanche fought for 13 yards on Friday to score a touchdown, the run up the middle making it 7-0 with 4:47 left in the opening quarter.
St. Francis (1-2) evened the score 7-7 in the second period when Andrew Scharrenberg raced 54 yards on a draw play that started in the middle of the field and ended with him running toward the left pylon.
The mad dash capped an eight-play, 95-yard drive.
St. Francis’ Andrew Scharrenberg (33) is congratulated by head coach Greg Calcagno after a first half touchdown against De La Salle, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Mountain View, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
De La Salle responded quickly, needing only five plays to go 76 yards for a touchdown that gave the Spartans a 14-7 lead. Faavae’s 2-yard sneak accounted for the score.
St. Francis answered that TD with Scharrenberg’s second scoring play, this one from 3 yards out on fourth-and-1. The running back appeared to be stopped as he crashed into the middle of the line, but he bounced to the outside and cruised across the goal line to tie it 14-14 with 46.5 seconds left in the half.
“I thought we battled,” said St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno, whose program ended De La Salle’s 30-year unbeaten streak against regional opponents in 2021. “Disappointed with the final score, but I felt we played pretty hard.”
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Tied at halftime, De La Salle got a stop to open the third quarter and then drove 52 yards for a TD. Faavae’s 1-yard plunge with 4:25 left in the quarter gave the visitors a 21-14 edge.
Junior running back Kingston Keanaaina finished with 128 yards of offense for St. Francis, including 99 on the ground in 18 carries. Scharrenberg had 10 carries for 67 yards and quarterback Aaron Knapp passed for 106 yards.
De La Salle finished with 268 yards rushing and 26 passing.
But most importantly, the Spartans won a game.
“It felt great,” Kelley said. “It’s about time we came together as a team. Everybody was working and we got the win tonight.”