As quarterback DJ Uiagalelei kept throwing dart after dart and receiver Kris Hutson made catch after catch on a cool Saturday night at Cerritos College, the crowd of more than 8,000 was witnessing the continuing changing of the guard.
When the decade began, Concord De La Salle was still on top and Bellflower St. John Bosco was embarking on an ambitious plan to one day get there in California high school football.
Ten seasons later, it’s the Braves (13-1) and coach Jason Negro occupying the penthouse while inflicting the fourth consecutive bowl defeat for the Spartans (12-2).
Uiagalelei, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior headed to Clemson, was close to unstoppable in leading the Braves to a 49-28 victory in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for 64 yards and scored one touchdown.
The game was clinched when Matthew Jordan picked up a De La Salle fumble and ran 96 yards for a touchdown with 3:27 left.
Uiagalelei was 13 of 15 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He literally dragged a De La Salle defender clinging to his back five yards.
DJ meeting the legendary Bob Ladouceur. pic.twitter.com/bHtVoV4WFy— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) December 15, 2019
Hutson caught five passes for 103 yards and one touchdown in the first half and was so energized that even though he lost a shoe, he still returned a kickoff 30 yards. He was one of three St. John Bosco players to generate more than 100 yards in receiving. Hutson had seven catches for 133 yards. Logan Loya caught eight passes for 117 yards. Beau Collins made four catches for 102 yards.
“We’re No. 1,” Hutson said.
St. John Bosco’s defense looked well-prepared for De La Salle’s quarterback option play, doing a good job containing the Spartans. Quarterback Dorian Hale did break loose for a 10-yard touchdown run at the end of the second quarter to cut St. John Bosco’s lead to 14-7.
But Uigalelei marched the Braves down field and connected with JonJon Vaughns for a six-yard touchdown and a 21-7 halftime lead.
Shamar Garrett used his speed to give De La Salle a boost in the second half. He had touchdown runs of 60 and two yards, pulling the Spartans within 35-28 with 9:49 left. And Hale, a junior, gained in confidence despite a consistent pass rush from the Braves, directing three scoring drives. He finished with 207 yards passing. But Uiagalelei responded with a 73-yard drive and ran it in for a nine-yard touchdown with 8:11 left and a 42-28 lead.
Near the end of the first half, the game was briefly delayed because power went out in the Spectrum TV truck. Viewers were informed of “technical difficulties.” Halftime was extended five minutes as the TV officials tried to fix the problem. Early in the second half, the broadcast continued with one camera and no commentators.
Look how easy this was. So many open receivers. It went to JonJon Vaughns. 26 seconds left before half. St. John Bosco 21, De La Salle 7. pic.twitter.com/v5HPNKGfRR— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) December 15, 2019
The last 10 years will be remembered in Southern California high school football as a period in which St. John Bosco’s consistency thrust the Braves to a level unseen in school history.
They made it to seven consecutive Southern Section Division 1 finals, winning three times. They made it to three CIF state championship Open Division bowl games, going 3-0.
And it all happened after Negro was hired in 2010.