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Back to old school: De La Salle grinds out physical victory over Folsom

Back to old school: De La Salle grinds out physical victory over Folsom

FOLSOM — It was a throwback to another era for De La Salle on Friday night, a physical display of relentless grit for a team that clearly has put a 0-2 start in the rearview mirror.

The Concord powerhouse ran, ran and kept on running behind junior tailbacks Derrick Blanche and Dominic Kelley and their convoy of blockers.

On defense, the Spartans were aggressive and mostly dominant against an opponent known for keeping scoreboard operators busy.

When it ended, De La Salle had beaten Folsom 14-7, the Spartans’ third consecutive victory after opening the season with losses to Orange Lutheran and Serra.

Blanche rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown in 22 carries. Kelley had 102 yards in 25 carries. De La Salle finished with 293 yards on the ground and 16 through the air.

De La Salle quarterback Toa Fa’avae (13) congratulates teammate Derrick Blanche (22) after scoring on a three-yard touchdown against Folsom in the first quarter of their game at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Take away Folsom’s blue synthetic turf and replace it with chewed-up natural grass and, well, it really would have been an old-school triumph.

“Our coach told us right before the game that it was going to be a bloodbath and that’s exactly what it was,” said senior Drew Cunningham, who plays linebacker and tight end. “Our whole emphasis going into this game was we’re going to be physical and we’re going to wear them down. That’s exactly what we did.

“Offense was firing off the ball. The defense was hitting. A few small mistakes. But when everyone is flying around, those small mistakes fix themselves. We just have to clean everything up. But overall it was a fast, physical game. That’s how we wanted to play tonight.”

De La Salle (3-2) set the tone on its first possession, running 11 consecutive times to drive from its 31 to the Folsom 10. The Spartans came away without points when the series stalled and a field-goal attempt missed the target.

But the visitors didn’t ditch the playbook and kept running.

De La Salle eventually scored when Blanche ran across the goal line from 3 yards out to complete a 12-play, 54-yard drive.

“This is exactly what we practice, week in and week out,” Blanche said. “It was time for us to execute it against a very good team. This is what we were built for. This is what we trained for all summer.

“The first five games were a little tough. But we’ve played some really good teams. People were looking at us like, ‘What’s going on?’ We had to once again prove ourselves.”

Folsom quarterback Ryder Lyons (3) is dejected after being defeated by De La Salle at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Folsom (3-2) tried to answer Blanche’s touchdown and nearly did. But on fourth-and-goal from the 7, quarterback Ryder Lyons’ scramble fell one yard short of the goal line.

De La Salle took a 7-0 lead into halftime, got a stop to start the third quarter and then went on another long touchdown march that turned out to be the decisive points.

The Spartans drove from their 22 to the Folsom 20. On fourth and three, coach Justin Alumbaugh sent out his field-goal team to try to draw Folsom offside.

DLS thought it did just that but didn’t get a call from the officials, thus needing to burn a timeout.

The Spartans sent the offense back out after the timeout and got the first down instead when Kelley charged through the line for an 11-yard gain.

Three plays later, quarterback Toa Faavae scored on a 1-yard sneak to give De La Salle a 14-0 lead with 2:57 left in the third quarter.

Folsom cut the margin to 14-7 when Lyons connected with Abram Woodson from 9 yards out, the receiver catching the pass right in front of the goal-line pylon. The touchdown capped a 91-yard drive.

De La Salle’s Kai Moananu-Apela (57) tackles Folsom quarterback Ryder Lyons (3) in the second quarter of their game at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

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The home team had one last shot when Faavae’s punt midway through the final quarter pinned the Bulldogs back to their 1. But Lyons’ deep pass from his own 29 was intercepted by Trisshon Wright with 3:33 left and De La Salle marched down the field again to run out the clock.

“I loved almost all of that game,” said DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh, whose team also won at Folsom last December in a NorCal regional. “We made mistakes and there are obviously going to be things to clean up. But for the most part, we played our tails off. I loved the physicality. Folsom is a great team.

“I loved the physicality of our offensive line. Finally. I loved the physicality of our runners. I thought our defense was outstanding outside of one drive. I loved it. That looked like a game I could have played in, in the ’90s, and that’s what we need right now.”

De La Salle quarterback Toa Fa’avae (13) runs with the ball against Folsom in the first quarter of their game at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
De La Salle’s Ant Dean (26) breaks a tackle by Folsom’s Mason Kelly (13) in the first quarter of their game at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
The Folsom student body throws chalk into the air before the start of their game against De La Salle at Folsom High School in Folsom, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)