De La Salle vs. San Ramon Valley: Five keys to Friday’s huge football game

SRV coach says “I anticipate Danville to get pretty excited” about De La Salle’s visit on Friday night

According to history, De La Salle will defeat San Ramon Valley on Friday night. In fact, it has a history of 32 years.

But has anyone in history seen Luke Baker play quarterback for SRV?

Has four-star linebacker Marco Jones made play after play for the Danville school’s defense in the past?

Has San Ramon Valley done anything like this in its history? The Wolves have won all six of their games by a combined score of 23 points.

To begin the season, they defeated St. Ignatius 42-14 and Acalanes 44-21. Elk Grove was defeated 45-7, and McClymonds was defeated 35-7. Liberty was defeated 66-12, and Clayton Valley Charter was defeated 35-7.

Baker, who was named Bay Area News Group player of the year as a junior after leading SRV to a state championship game, has done it again.

He has thrown for 1,845 yards and 22 touchdowns with only two interceptions while completing 67.5% of his passes.

He’ll need to be sharp at home on Friday, especially with sparkplug running back John Ben Pau Mendoza (knee) out for the season.

“You’ve got a great shot in any game when you have a quarterback as good as him,” DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “I don’t care what level of football you’re playing.”

SRV is the most recent of a small group of North Coast Section teams to face DLS since the Concord school’s last loss within its own section 265 games and 32 years ago.

Since losing to Pittsburg in 1991, the Spartans have gone 264-0-1 against NCS opponents.

But will SRV deliver where others have failed?

Here are five factors that should influence the outcome:


In an era when elite high school football teams routinely put up video game passing numbers, De La Salle is the polar opposite.

The Spartans have dabbled in the passing waters before, including earlier this season. However, they have reverted to their tried-and-true formula of almost entirely running the ball until further notice.

And in a game like Friday’s, where the opposing quarterback can do serious damage with the ball in his hands, DLS will prioritize long, time-consuming drives.

Last month, the Spartans won 14-7 on the road against Folsom, and the strategy should work again if the Spartans can keep moving the chains behind running backs Dominic Kelley and Derrick Blanche and an improving offensive line.

“If you want to limit the opportunities of a great quarterback, don’t give him opportunities,” he said.


When a team wins the coin toss, they frequently defer to the second half. If the coin falls in SRV’s favor on Friday, our advice is to take the ball.

If Baker and company get off to a fast start and build a big lead, even if it’s only 10 or 14 points, De La Salle has yet to show that it has the offense to come back.

The Spartans have only trailed once in their four-game winning streak, 3-0 to St. Mary’s-Stockton. They quickly reversed that score, as Johnathan Guerrero returned the kickoff to the St. Mary’s 8 and Kelley scored on a 3-yard run.

DLS (4-2) eventually won 24-10.

“They’re probably going to run the ball every play, try and win the time of possession battle,” Baker went on to say. “It will be nice to get them off the field and just capitalize when we get the chance.”


Turning up the physical heat is another way to slow down a high-powered offense. De La Salle has men capable of doing so.

Edge rusher Drew Cunningham, linemen Matthew Johnson and Chris Biller, and defensive backs are all dangerous. In the secondary, Jaden Jefferson and Guerrero can make passing windows tight.

And the defense has gotten better week after week.

DLS has given up 17 points to St. Francis, 10 to St. Mary’s, seven to Folsom, and zero to McClymonds since giving up 35 points to Orange Lutheran and 28 to Serra, which included a pick-six.

“I’m happy that our defense is playing well,” Alumbaugh said. “There is no question about it. However, we cannot rely on zeros for the remainder of the year. That will come back to bite us unless we improve our offensive consistency.”


Last week at Clayton Valley, San Ramon Valley bent a couple of times in the first half. Two long drives by the home team – one to start the game and another later in the first half – could have changed the game’s complexion.

Clayton Valley was held to zero points each time.

That was, in some ways, a microcosm of the defense’s season. SRV’s opponents average about 300 yards per game but only 11.3 points.

The Wolves have intercepted seven passes (four of which came against Liberty) and recovered five fumbles.

They also have Jones as their anchor, who has offers from some of college football’s biggest names.

Jones is aware that De La Salle will attempt a punishing ground attack on SRV.

He looks forward to the challenge.

“They’re a strong team. Jones described them as “always physical.” “This will be a physical game.” There is no doubt about it. “Who doesn’t enjoy physical activities?”


The atmosphere will be electric, given that this game has been marked on calendars for weeks.

“I expect Danville to get pretty excited,” said SRV coach Aaron Becker.

But, as with any big game, which team will thrive in the heat and which will falter?

De La Salle has participated in many games like this one over the years and faced numerous challenges, both near and far.

SRV has witnessed it firsthand. During the Spartans’ 32-year unbeaten streak in the NCS, the Wolves are 0-18 against them, losing by an average of 36.3 points.

If Friday’s game goes as planned, Luke Baker might be able to complete some family business. In a 28-27 loss to DLS seven years ago, his brother Clark threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns.

“We’ve been there before,” said Becker. “We have no illusions about what will enter the stadium. The kids will have a great time. We’re going to try to win the football game. We’ll see how the cards fall.”

Matchups like Friday’s, according to Alumbaugh, are great for football.

“It’ll be bananas for sure,” he predicted. “We’ll be playing in a difficult environment.” It’s times like this that I’m glad we had the schedule we did. We are not going into an unfamiliar environment.”

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