De La Salle fades in second half, loses its season opener to Orange Lutheran

Southern California heavyweight Orange Lutheran scores three second-half touchdowns, including Steve Chavez’s version of Beast Mode, to beat De La Salle

CONCORD, N.C. — To win its season opener against Southern California heavyweight Orange Lutheran on Friday night, De La Salle would have to play flawlessly.

The Spartans did not play flawlessly.

De La Salle, which was tied at halftime, gave up three unanswered second-half touchdowns and lost 35-14 at home to an opponent that had won impressively a week earlier and is in the same league as Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.

Steve Chavez was Orange Lutheran’s standout performer, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns, one of which was dubbed “Beast Mode 3.0” by the junior running back’s coaches.

The 58-yard run late in the third quarter featured multiple stiff arms in an electrifying sequence that put the game out of reach at 28-14.

It was one of several plays that De La Salle would like to see again.

“The mistakes you can make with a good team like Orange Lutheran are very few, almost none,” quarterback Toa Faavae said. “Too many blunders.” Too many mental blunders.”

On the final play of the first half, De La Salle made a defensive stop in the end zone to keep the score 14-14 and received the ball to begin the second half.

However, the Spartans went three-and-out, and the visitors took possession at the De La Salle 46 after a short punt.

Orange Lutheran scored on a drive that Chavez completed with a 2-yard run to take a 21-14 lead.

Later in the quarter, De La Salle appeared to get a big pass play over the middle that would have moved the Spartans inside the Orange Lutheran 30.

However, the ball was stolen, and Orange Lutheran recovered.

“Against a really good team like this, you have to make big plays,” said De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh. “They made more than we did.” We never gave up. We were squabbling and scraping. We had opportunities, but they took advantage of them more than we did.”

De La Salle limited Orange Lutheran to nine yards in three plays after the turnover. On fourth-and-1 from its own 36, Orange Lutheran found Chavez for a 6-yard gain.

On the next snap, Chavez, a transfer from Damien, made a play reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” runs in the NFL.

“I had some great blocks up front, bounced out, and from there, God paved the way,” Chavez said, adding that he stiff-armed at least four defenders and broke about six tackles.

Given how the game began, it appeared that the last one to score would win.

In the first four possessions, the teams combined for 28 points.

Orange Lutheran, which had just beaten Serra-Gardena 49-17 the week before, needed only 10 plays to cover 66 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first possession.

TJ Lateef, who has offers from Georgia and Miami, connected with Tyler Hennessy on third-and-11 from Orange Lutheran’s 33 yard line to keep the series alive.

Chavez’s 16-yard slashing run, followed by Lateef’s 14-yard scramble, got the visitors inside the 10.

After two plays, Joseph De La Torre caught a 5-yard pass from Lateef to make it 7-0.

De La Salle responded immediately.

The Spartans took over at their own 41 after a 39-yard kickoff return by Jaden Jefferson.

De La Salle needed eight plays to cross the goal line. With 4:04 left in the first quarter, Faavae’s 16-yard quarterback keeper tied the score at 7-7.

Orange Lutheran took a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter when AJ La caught a 3-yard pass from Lateef in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal.

De La Salle responded once more, driving 62 yards to tie the game. With 7:37 left in the half, Dominic Kelley’s 3-yard run tied the game at 21-21.

The Spartans did not score again the rest of the way.

“We get the ball at halftime, tied 14-14, and to be honest, I liked our chances,” Alumbaugh said. “We just couldn’t pull it off.” They seemed to make a big play every time we needed a stop. We just couldn’t seem to make a big play when we needed it.”

De La Salle’s schedule does not ease up. Next up is a trip to Serra on Saturday.

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