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Quarterback Anthony Sweeney passes under pressure during afternoon practice at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

CONCORD -- Perhaps more than ever, the De La Salle High football program will be in the spotlight as it prepares for the 2014 season.

With the major motion picture "When the Game Stands Tall" based on the Spartans' 2004 season set to be released nationwide on Aug. 22, the story of one of the most dominant high school football programs ever will reach an even wider audience.

"We're a lot more well-known than before and that just adds a new type of pressure that we're willing to respond to," said senior co-captain Simba Short. "I could tell you that it really doesn't affect us, but that would be a lie. It's definitely added pressure."

But even with the extra attention, the team is ready and well-stocked to succeed.

The way the 2013 season ended -- a 20-14 loss to St. John Bosco-Bellflower in the Open Division state title game that snapped a 40-game winning streak -- has kept the Spartans focused in the offseason.

"Sometimes losses can be the greatest motivators," head coach Justin Alumbaugh said. "It doesn't have to be, but a lot of our guys are using it that way. Us coaches, we don't like (losing) either. I've been pretty happy with a lot of our progress so if we continue down that road I'll be pretty pleased with where we're at."

Though De La Salle lost four seniors to Division I college programs and another top recruit, defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, transferred to Clayton Valley Charter, plenty of talent remains.


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Antoine Custer, an explosive junior, will lead the Spartans' running game and play in the secondary. Promising receiver Adam Mayer is healthy after missing nearly his entire junior season to a leg injury.

Devin Asiasi, a superb athlete at 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds, will contribute on both sides of the ball, playing tight end and defensive end.

Junior Anthony Sweeney replaces Chris Williams at quarterback and is receiving high marks from coaches and teammates for his leadership and ability to run the Spartans' offense.

Drew Sullivan (6-2, 330) anchors the offensive line.

The defense has the Northwestern-bound Short and three-year starter Cameron Lissarrague back at linebacker.

Questions still remain with the defensive line, but junior Boss Tagaloa -- who should be fully recovered from a broken ankle suffered in the offseason -- is a strong piece to build around.

Jevari Anderson could have a breakout year at cornerback, and is expected to get carries on offense.

With quality players all around, one of Alumbaugh's biggest focuses has been discipline.

"We never really put together a game last year where our offense, defense and special teams were all in cohesion," Alumbaugh said. "We just weren't consistent as a team last year. We were too immature. That's really what we're working at."

Consistency will be key playing a schedule that may be one of De La Salle's toughest ever.

The season begins on a huge stage with the Spartans playing Jesuit-Carmichael as part of a prep doubleheader at Levi's Stadium -- the San Franscisco 49ers' new home.

"For everyone on the team that's a Niners fan, that's like a dream come true," Sullivan said.

The Marauders are coached by Marlon Blanton, a former De La Salle star. The Spartans face another alumnus in Week 2 with coach Patrick Walsh and Serra-San Mateo, who nearly ended the Spartans' NorCal unbeaten streak a year ago.

Games with Byrnes-South Carolina, Servite-Anaheim (ranked No. 10 in the nation by MaxPreps.com) and Del Oro-Loomis (the defending NorCal Division I regional champion) will also provide stiff challenges.

Locally, San Ramon Valley, Logan and California should field strong teams.

"It's not an easy run in any way, shape or form," Alumbaugh said. "We don't really get to catch our breath all year."

Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at Twitter.com/stephhammon.

DE LA SALLE
8/29 JESUIT* 8 p.m.
9/5 SERRA 7:30 p.m.
9/12 BYRNES-S.C. 7:15 p.m.
9/19 at Del Oro 7:30 p.m.
9/27 SERVITE 7:30 p.m.
10/3 at San Ramon Valley 7 p.m.
10/10 JAMES LOGAN 7 p.m.
10/24 FOOTHILL 7 p.m.
10/31 at Amador Valley 7 p.m.
11/7 at California 7 p.m.
* at Levi's Stadium

Coming Next week
A team-by-team preview of the always-tough Diablo Valley Athletic League will appear Aug. 29 in this newspaper.