Champs past and present to clash

Re­match of 2017 ti­tle game pits de­fend­ing cham­pion Mater Dei against De La Salle.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Eric Sond­heimer eric.sond­[email protected]­ Twit­ter: @lat­sond­heimer

It’s re­match time in the CIF state cham­pi­onship Open Divi­sion foot­ball bowl game Satur­day night at Cer­ri­tos Col­lege.

Seven-time state cham­pion Concord De La Salle (12-0) and de­fend­ing cham­pion Santa Ana Mater Dei (12-2) are fac­ing off for the sec­ond year in a row in the 8 p.m. fi­nal.

Last sea­son, Mater Dei won 52-21.

It will be a chal­lenge for the Mon­archs to score that many points Satur­day be­cause De La Salle’s de­fense this sea­son is much im­proved. De La Salle’s 14-0 sea­son-open­ing win over usu­ally high-scor­ing Fol­som should be a warn­ing to pre­vent any Mater Dei over­con­fi­dence.

“We’ve been re­ly­ing on de­fense all sea­son,” De La Salle coach Justin Alum­baugh said.

Alum­baugh is in his sixth sea­son as head coach since tak­ing over for the leg­endary Bob Ladouceur, who is now an as­sis­tant coach. Be­cause of wild­fires in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and poor air qual­ity, the Spar­tans went three weeks with­out play­ing a game and missed many days of prac­tice.

A 42-7 win over Brent­wood Lib­erty last week knocked off any rust.

Here’s a look at play­ers to watch in a game that will de­cide the best foot­ball team in Cal­i­for­nia.

Bru McCoy, Mater Dei, re­ceiver: The con­sen­sus No. 1 se­nior in Cal­i­for­nia is a player feared by op­po­nents on al­most ev­ery of­fen­sive play. Alum­baugh re­mem­bers him from last sea­son. “I’m as­sum­ing he’s bet­ter, and he was pretty good,” he said. McCoy has caught 17 touch­down passes and has five sacks play­ing line­backer.

Amir Wal­lace, De La Salle, cor­ner­back: He is likely to cover McCoy. Wal­lace shut down one of the state’s best re­ceivers, Joe Ngata of Fol­som, lim­it­ing him to six catches and 50 yards. At 6 feet 1, he has the size to chal­lenge McCoy on jump balls.

Bryce Young, Mater Dei, quar­ter­back: JT Daniels led Mater Dei to a 15-0 record last sea­son. Young, a junior, has the Mon­archs in po­si­tion for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive state cham­pi­onship. He has passed for 3,550 yards and 37 touch­downs. His de­ci­sions on whether to take off and run or stay in the pocket could de­cide this game.

Henry To’oto’o, De La Salle, line­backer: At 6-2 and 225 pounds, To’oto’o is easy to spot on de­fense. He’s the one mak­ing tackle af­ter tackle. If the Spar­tans are to put pres­sure on Mater Dei, he must help stop the Mon­archs’ rush­ing at­tack.

Shakobe Harper, Mater Dei, run­ning back: If there’s an un­sung hero this sea­son for the Mon­archs, it’s Harper, who has rushed for 1,150 yards and 17 touch­downs. He was sup­posed to lose his start­ing po­si­tion to Sean Dol­lars, a trans­fer from Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga. Harper in­stead has been a key player in cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the pass­ing game by pick­ing up the tough yards in­side.

Beau Ta­ga­loa, De La Salle, line­man: The younger brother of UCLA cen­ter Boss Ta­ga­loa will be counted on to deal with Mater Dei’s phys­i­cal­ity up front and help the Spar­tans ex­e­cute their veer at­tack on of­fense as well as stop the run on de­fense.

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