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December 23, 2013

Family runs deep with De La Salle Pipeline

Situated along Treat Boulevard in Concord, Calif. sandwiched between Carondelet High School and Ygnacio High School is the home of perhaps the greatest record in national prep sports history.

Between 1992 and 2004, De La Salle High School won 151 straight football games, a remarkable streak that gained the school and legendary coach Bob Ladouceur a near-cult following, multiple books, a documentary and a seven-page spread in Sports Illustrated.

For 12 straight years, the private Catholic boys school from the East Bay Area churned out perfect record after perfect record until the streak finally ended on September 4, 2004 when De La Salle was beaten by Bellevue (WA) High School at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Even Hollywood has now taken notice. One of the best-selling books about De La Salle football - "When the Game Stands Tall" by Neil Hayes - has been made into a movie. Filming at four high schools in the New Orleans area wrapped up in June and the movie is scheduled for release next September.

Jim Caviezel, who rocketed to fame portraying Jesus in the 2004 Mel Gibson film, 'The Passion of the Christ,' plays Ladouceur, who compiled an amazing record of 399-25-2 in 34 seasons at De La Salle. His .934 winning percentage is national record among coaches with 200 or more wins.

Even though that attention-grabbing streak was halted nine years ago, the winning has not stopped in Concord. Coming into Saturday night's CIF Open Division state championship game against St. John Bosco, De La Salle had 40-game winning streak come to an end in the 20-14 loss. It was the Spartan's first loss to a team from California since 2008.

De La Salle had won four straight state titles and beaten 250 consecutive Northern California-based opponents. Since 1984, DLS is 333-5-2 against Northern California schools.

Supplementing all those wins, the Spartans have produced an abundance of elite Division I caliber talent. Possibly no bowl game features a greater De La Salle presence than the December 24 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (5 p.m., ESPN) between Oregon State and Boise State as the two teams share five DLS graduates on their respective rosters.

Beaver standouts defensive end Dylan Wynn, fullback Tyler Anderson and running back Terron Ward are De La Salle graduates along with Boise State linebacker Blake Renaud and tight end Connor Peters.

So, what is De La Salle's secret? Among other things, a long tradition of excellence, accountability in preparation, stability in the coaching staff and, of course, skyscraping expectations passed down from year to year.

Wynn said he took a number of valuable lessons from his time at De La Salle, many of which are cornerstones of the program's rich history.

"They infused a work ethic and really being accountable for what you do on and off the field and not wasting chances that you get," Wynn said. "At De La Salle, it's definitely player led. You kept your teammates accountable and you made sure you got the reps (in practice and weight room). Everybody wanted to outwork each other. That built a closeness between all the players.

"I'm still friends with everybody I played with."

One of those players is Renaud, who along with Wynn started as a sophomore on the renowned DLS defense in 2008.

"I consider Blake Renaud like a brother," Wynn said. "We've been following each other during the season. We still talk. It will be fun. We go into it as friends, but once you put the helmet on and get between the lines, it's game time. I can't wait to see how both teams play. We both thrive on competition."

Anderson was a three-year starter at running back and cornerback for De La Salle, rushing for 1,289 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior in 2009 while also leading the team in interceptions.


"It taught me a lot just being around a bunch of good guys coming from different places," Anderson said. "It taught me how to work hard and about dedication and brotherhood."

Those lessons extended to the coaching staff.

"It's a lot about continuity, the effort the kids put in, their attitudes and work ethic," said De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson, who has held his position since 1992. "There are a lot of intangibles. There are so many different factors in what we do. Breaking it down, it is players being accountable to one another with an extraordinary work ethic that you normally don't see in high school.

"Kids don't want to be the team that is known for screwing it up."

Quickly engrained into the minds of DLS players when they begin moving up through the system is the concept that regardless of talent no player is bigger than the program.

"Even at the freshman level, we were told that it doesn't matter who you are, we can do this without you," Wynn said. "No one is bigger than the program or the system. You have to really do your job and do what you have to do. If you don't, they don't need you to win.

"That was a big shocker for me because I thought I was awesome coming out of Pop Warner. But I needed to hear that."

The total number of DLS graduates on the Beavers roster should grow to four next season when 2014 commitment Sumner Houston, a 6-foot-3 offensive lineman and MVP of the East Bay Athletic League, joins the OSU program.

"The best way I can describe (Houston) is old school tough," Eidson told BeaverBlitz. "He played last season with a torn labrum. He bangs every play. He is one of those kids that you'll find a place on the field for him because he will give you his best over and over."

Does a De La Salle to Oregon State pipeline currently exist? At the moment, it appears so.

"We've always had a mutual admiration for Coach Riley," Eidson said. "I know he has a admiration for our program. He knows that De La Salle kids are going to be good kids. They're not going to be problems, they're going to work hard and they're going to bring a winning attitude to your team. We've always had a good relationship with Coach Riley. He appreciates what we do with our players and he likes the kids from our program."

Anderson and Ward essentially jumpstarted the pipeline from DLS to Corvallis when they signed with the Beavers in 2010. Their senior season at DLS (2009) marked the first of four straight state titles for the Spartans.

"There's a lot of accountability at that school because of the history," Anderson said. "So, you want to live up to that and what the school is all about. You have to do all the small things the right way. Seniors pass the torch as to how you want the team to be. It's all about hard work and being accountable to the program and your teammates on and off the field."

Anderson was attracted to Oregon State because he discovered the same nurturing environment in Corvallis that he enjoyed in Concord.

"Oregon State reminds me of De La Salle because of the family we have here and how close we are as teammates," Anderson said. "We really do hold each other accountable on and off the field."

Wynn likewise drew parallels between his time playing for De La Salle (2008-10) and his experiences in three seasons with the Beavers.

"Where would I feel most at home and feel the most comfortable was a big deciding factor for me," Wynn said. "I definitely felt this was the best place among all the offers I had. Coach Riley is a father figure and I've learned so much under Coach Joe (Seumalo). He took me under his wing and helped me become a better man on and off the field."

Houston's offensive line partners at De La Salle include Larry Allen, the 285-pound son of the NFL Hall of Fame lineman by the same name, and Kahlil McKenzie, the 316-pound son of Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie.

Wynn, beloved within the Beavers program for his non-stop hustle and relentless demeanor on and off the field, broke into the De La Salle starting lineup as a sophomore, an almost unheard of achievement, and was the leader of the Spartans defense by the time of his senior campaign in 2010 when DLS went 14-0 and won by an average margin of 35 points.

"To be a starter as a sophomore (for DLS), you have to be a pretty good football player," Eidson said. "Both (Wynn and Renaud) are tough as nails and very physical players. They were dream players for us. Dylan was totally relentless and still plays that way. He has a great motor."

Winning at greater than a 90 percent clip has one side effect - internal and external pressure is a constant companion as long as you desire to wear De La Salle's iconic green and silver uniforms.

"There's definitely pressure. People expect you to win and you expect to win," said Wynn, adding he brought that same expectation to Oregon State. "You go in not underestimating teams because you approach each situation as the game of a lifetime. You know everybody will bring their 'A' game against you.

"If you lost a game at De La Salle, it was a big deal because we were supposed to go undefeated every year."

Nonetheless, despite the enormous pressure he felt every week, Wynn maintained he wouldn't trade his experiences at De La Salle for anywhere else.

"I wouldn't have wanted to go anywhere else besides De La Salle because that (experience) really shaped me for who I am," Wynn said. "It made me accountable for the things I do. In addition to my motor, that's what got me into college. I'm an undersized and slower defensive end, but I'm known to have the motor and just keep going and going.

"De La Salle definitely instilled that in me."


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