CONCORD -- Though his father and older brother played the glamorous role of quarterback, Sumner Houston has never wanted to be anything other than a lineman.
"I love it in the trenches," said Houston, a two-way starter for the De La Salle High football team. "It's a different mindset. I never had the dream of being a quarterback, I always wanted to be one of the best linemen around."
He might not get the headlines his family members did, but the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Houston is more than happy to do the dirty work, especially if it ends in success for De La Salle, the four-time defending Open Division state champion.
To challenge for a fifth title, the Spartans (13-0) must first get past Folsom (14-0), the offensive juggernaut out of the Sac-Joaquin Section, in Saturday's CIF Northern Regional Open Division final. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill.
Controlling the line of scrimmage will be crucial for the Spartans.
Houston and the defensive line will look to collapse the pocket and harass Folsom quarterback Jake Browning, who this season has set state records in passing yards (5,393) and touchdowns (74).
The junior is also completing an amazing 77 percent of his throws.
"It seems like he's dropping dimes every pass," said De La Salle safety Dasmond Tautalatasi, who was on the field a year ago when the Spartans topped Browning and Folsom 49-15 in the regional final.
Houston, an Oregon State commit, also plays left tackle for an offensive line that has cleared the way for an average of 365 rushing yards a game -- a statistic that De La Salle might need to hit again to stave off the record-setting Bulldogs.
Last week, the Spartans piled up 553 yards on the ground, and six players rushed for touchdowns in a 49-17 win over California that earned them a 22nd consecutive North Coast Section title.
The Spartans are noted for their play in the trenches each season, but this year's group is especially talented and big. It hasn't hurt that former coach Bob Ladouceur has put much of his focus on the defensive line in his new role as an assistant.
"I'm from that area so I'm familiar with De La Salle, and this offensive and defensive line is as good as any I've seen," said Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson, a former lineman at College Park and DVC.
Houston prefers defense, where he is a three-year starter and has teamed with junior Kahlil McKenzie to form a menacing interior duo.
They've combined for 19 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.
"On offense, it's easy: You know what's going to happen every play, so you just do your job," said Houston, whose older brother, Bart, is a quarterback at Wisconsin and father, Guy, played at San Ramon Valley before his career in politics. "On defense, it's a lot of reading, a lot of thinking quickly and a lot of reacting. And the hitting, I like that."
Houston, a senior, isn't the biggest guy on either line, but he's one of the most valuable for his impact on and off the field.
"He's was the (East Bay Athletic League) MVP, and he deserved it," De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. "He's sort of the anchor of the team. He was always the hardest worker and always grinding in the weight room. That rubs off on the people around him."
Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at twitter.com/stephhammon.