116-1 Not to Be as De La Salle Beats Poly

That dance that the De La Salle High football players were doing at the end of their game on Saturday against Long Beach Poly could be described as "Doin' the Drew." Photo by Ray Vidal.

In what some were calling the biggest game in California history, the Spartans launched junior running back Maurice Drew against the Jackrabbits and he responded by scoring four touchdowns in a 29-15 victory.

The win, which came before a crowd of 17,321 at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, pushed De La Salle's national record win streak to 117 games since 1991. It also gave the Spartans the inside track to finish the season as the nation's No. 1 team for the fourth time in eight years and take a 125-game win streak into the 2002 season.

They entered the game ranked No. 1 in the Student Sports FAB 50. Poly entered the game ranked No. 1 by USA Today and was No. 2 by Student Sports. The Jackrabbits also had a 30-0-1 unbeaten streak snapped. Their last loss was in the 1998 CIF Southern Section Div. I championship game to Mater Dei of Santa Ana.

"We would've been just as happy tonight if the streak had ended at 116 because our kids played hard and we were happy with our effort," said De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur. "Sometimes I thought, ‘It's just a game‚' but I realize that when you put two programs like these together it would draw a lot of interest to high school football."

"You have to give credit to De La Salle," said Long Beach Poly coach Raul Lara. "We knew coming in that if we didn't control the line of scrimmage we'd be in trouble. We tried and tried to make adjustments, but couldn't do it."

Drew was not the showcase running back for the Spartans in their first three games as senior Alijah Bradley took center stage. It was Bradley who rushed for 204 yards in a victory over Mater Dei two weeks earlier.

But the De La Salle coaching staff designed a game plan that enabled Drew to get the ball in key spots with Long Beach Poly linebackers covering him.

"All week I knew I was going to be a focal point of the offense," Drew said. "I thought it'd be a real close game, like 14-13, but we all stepped up and did what we had to do. This was my coming out party."

The first time that was evident was on the Spartans‚ first series of the game when quarterback Matt Gutierrez tossed a short pass to Drew in the right flat on a third-and-eight play from the Poly 25 yard line. Drew broke one tackle and somersaulted into the end zone for the touchdown. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but that would turn out to be the only questionable move he made all night.

After Poly got on the scoreboard on a 42-yard field goal by Jeff Hasting, Gutierrez and Drew struck again on a 29-yard touchdown pass. On that play, which came on fourth down, Drew ran a circle route out of the backfield down the left sideline and hauled in an over-the-shoulder touch pass from Gutierrez.

Drew's third touchdown came in the second quarter when he took a handoff on an off-tackle play, broke through two Poly tacklers, and hit paydirt on a 17-yard run.

Drew's final score salted away the De La Salle victory. It was a similar effort to his third touchdown and came on a 22-yard run with 6:57 left. Drew ended the game with nine carries for 86 yards and three receptions for 79 yards.

Despite the final 15-point deficit, Poly certainly had its chances in the showdown and came within two dropped passes and a few inches on a key fourth-down play of really putting the pressure on the Spartans.

The Jackrabbits went for a home run on their first play and quarterback Brandon Brooks threw a pass right on the hands of sophomore receiver Derrick Jones, who had split the De La Salle safeties. But Jones was unable to make the catch. Another key dropped pass in the end zone prevented Poly from scoring a touchdown in the third quarter.

Brooks, not recognized as being one of Poly‚s major college recruits, turned in a very strong effort. He directed an offense that had no turnovers and erased many of the penalties it was being called for earlier in the season. Brooks scored the Jackrabbits‚ first touchdown on a one-yard sneak with 7:56 left in the second quarter. Then after Drew scored his third touchdown to bring the score to 21-9 for De La Salle, Brooks led the Jackrabbits on a 14-play, 80-yard drive just before halftime. The capper to that drive was a 12-yard scoring pass to All-American tight end Marcedes Lewis.

After halftime, the Jackrabbits had two drives that potentially could have resulted in them taking a 22-21 lead. On the first one, Hershel Dennis, who like Brooks had a phenomenal game and finished with 158 yards rushing on 20 carries, was stopped inches short of a first down on a fourth-and-one from the De La Salle 46.

On the second, Brooks was not able to attempt a pass on a fourth-and 10 from the De La Salle 30. After that play, the Spartans took over and drove 70 yards in 11 plays, which put the Jackrabbits in desperation mode.

"I think we'll come back strong," Brooks said. "It's a legit streak. They're a great team. I would like to play them again, tomorrow if I could."

Some of De La Salle's players talked with equal respect for the Jackrabbits.

"Don't take anything from Poly, they brought it every single down," Gutierrez said. "We're just thrilled to have won. I was nervous the whole entire game until it was over."

Added All-American lineman Derek Landri: "Poly will be really good, especially when they get more experience, but we felt we had the edge in conditioning. This shows that a good team will beat a team of individuals any day. Not that Poly isn't a team, it's just we kept hearing about they had all these All-Americans. We feel we have some pretty good players on our team, too."

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