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

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

CONCORD — De La Salle was going to have to play a clean game to win its season opener on Friday night against Southern California heavyweight Orange Lutheran.

The Spartans did not play a clean game.

Tied at halftime, De La Salle gave up three unanswered second-half touchdowns and lost at home 35-14 against an opponent that won impressively a week earlier and comes from the same league that features Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.

Steve Chavez was the star of stars for Orange Lutheran, rushing for three touchdowns, including one the junior running back justifiably called “Beast Mode 3.0.”

The 58-yard run late in the third quarter included multiple stiff arms in an electrifying sequence that made it 28-14.

For De La Salle, it was one of several plays it would like to have back.

“With a good team like Orange Lutheran, the mistakes you can make are very little, virtually none,” quarterback Toa Faavae said. “Too many mistakes. Too many mental mistakes.”

De La Salle made a defensive stop in the end zone on the final play of the first half to keep the score 14-14 and got the ball to start the second half.

But the Spartans went three-and-out and a short punt gave the visitors possession at the De La Salle 46.

Orange Lutheran cashed in with a drive that Chavez finished with a 2-yard run for a 21-14 lead.

Later in the quarter, De La Salle got what looked like a big pass play over the middle that would have moved the Spartans inside Orange Lutheran’s 30.

But the ball was stripped and Orange Lutheran recovered.

“Against a really good team like this, you have to make big plays,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “They made more than us. We didn’t give up. We were fighting and scrapping. We had opportunities and they capitalized on more opportunities than we did.”

After the turnover, De La Salle held Orange Lutheran to nine yards in three plays. But on fourth-and-1 from its own 36, Orange Lutheran handed the ball to Chavez for a 6-yard gain.

On the next snap, he made the play that will go directly to the top of his recruiting highlights.

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

Given how the game started, it looked as if the last one to score would win.

The teams combined for 28 points in the first four possessions.

Orange Lutheran, coming off a 49-17 rout of Serra-Gardena last week, needed 10 plays to cover 66 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession.

TJ Lateef connected with Tyler Hennessy for 14 yards on third-and-11 from Orange Lutheran’s 33 to keep the series alive.

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

Two plays later, Joseph De La Torre caught a 5-yard pass from Lateef to for a 7-0 lead.

De La Salle immediately responded.

Jaden Jefferson’s 39-yard kickoff return put the Spartans at their own 41.

It took De La Salle eight plays to cross the goal line. Faavae’s 16-yard quarterback keeper accounted for the touchdown that evened the score 7-7 with 4:04 left in the opening quarter.

Orange Lutheran went in front 14-7 when AJ La caught a 3-yard pass from Lateef in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal to end the opening quarter.

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De La Salle responded again, driving 62 yards to pull even. Dominic Kelley’s 3-yard run made it 21-21 with 7:37 left in the half.

The Spartans didn’t score another point the rest of the game.

“We get the ball at half, tied 14-14, I liked our chances, to be honest,” Alumbaugh said. “We just couldn’t put it together. Every time we needed a stop, it seemed like they made a big play. Every time we needed a big play, we just couldn’t quite get it done.”

The schedule doesn’t soften for De La Salle. Up next: A visit to Serra next Saturday.