De La Salle beats St. Francis to dodge first 0-3 start in nearly a half-century

“This was a De La Salle win against a very good team,” coach says after De La Salle wins its first game of the season.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Has a De La Salle early-season victory ever felt so good?

The Spartans had to dig deep Friday night to avoid becoming the program’s first 0-3 start in 48 years in their first visit to St. Francis since their historic loss there two years ago.

With less than nine minutes remaining and a four-point lead, the Concord powerhouse finally dialed up the plays that propelled the team to victory.

De La Salle won 35-17 after quarterback Toa Faavae ran for three touchdowns and Dominic Kelley carried 25 times for 135 yards and one touchdown.

“I am happy for these kids,” said coach Justin Alumbaugh. “It’s a new group. We’re trying to figure out how to win. It’s extremely satisfying. It was incredible to see our offensive line resemble the De La Salle offensive line. We were taking off, and our runners resembled De La Salle runners. They were committing tackles.

“This was a De La Salle victory over a very good team.” Those guys are fantastic. They’ll win a lot of games this year.”

With 8:49 remaining in the game, St. Francis’ Christopher Han kicked a 26-yard field goal to pull the home team within 21-17.

When one of De La Salle’s speedsters, Johnathan Guerrero, picked up the ball at the 4 and found running room along the sideline, the ensuing kickoff appeared to be going out of bounds.

De La Salle (1-2) had the ball at the 50 yard line 46 yards later.

“That was huge,” said Alumbaugh. “I yelled at him to let it go out of bounds.” But then he took it, and I noticed a lane. “I kept quiet.”

De La Salle then pounded the rock, as they say, behind its line and Kelley. In the first eight plays of that series, the junior carried seven times, giving the Spartans a first down at the 12.

Kelley thought he’d get the ball again on the next snap, but Faavae had another plan.

Despite trying to convince Alumbaugh to run a bootleg all game, the quarterback got the go-ahead and fooled everyone on the field as he coasted around the left end for a touchdown, giving De La Salle its first double-digit lead of the season.

“Coming off a 0-2, we needed something to bring us back,” Faavae explained. “This was definitely a great opportunity for us to get back on track for what we need to do during the season.”

De La Salle came into the game having lost to Orange Lutheran 35-14 and Serra 28-0, both of which were ranked nationally by MaxPreps, and had gone seven quarters without scoring.

The Spartans hadn’t led this season until Derrick Blanche fought for 13 yards to score a touchdown on Friday, the run up the middle making it 7-0 with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter.

St. Francis (1-2) tied the game 7-7 in the second period on a 54-yard draw play that began in the middle of the field and ended with him running toward the left pylon.

The mad dash came at the end of an eight-play, 95-yard drive.

De La Salle responded quickly, going 76 yards in five plays for a touchdown that put the Spartans up 14-7. The score came from Faavae’s 2-yard sneak.

St. Francis responded with Scharrenberg’s second touchdown, this time from 3 yards out on fourth-and-1. With 46.5 seconds left in the half, 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.

“I thought we battled,” said St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno, whose team will end De La Salle’s 30-year unbeaten streak against regional opponents in 2021. “I was disappointed with the final score, but I thought we played well.”

De La Salle, tied at halftime, got a stop to start the third quarter and then drove 52 yards for a touchdown. With 4:25 remaining in the quarter, Faavae’s 1-yard plunge gave the visitors a 21-14 lead.

St. Francis junior running back Kingston Keanaaina finished with 124 yards of offense, including 95 yards on the ground in 18 carries. Scharrenberg had 10 carries for 65 yards and Aaron Knapp completed 13 of 19 passes for 120 yards.

De La Salle totaled 267 yards rushing and 25 yards passing.

The Spartans, most importantly, won a game.

“It felt great,” said Kelley. “It’s past time for us to band together as a team. Everyone worked hard, and we won tonight.”

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