CONCORD -- For Michael Hutchings, D.J. Moffitt, Austin Hooper and Victor Egu, a key sack, timely interception or bone-jarring tackle speaks louder than words.
The four seniors are highly recruited defensive players for the De La Salle High football team and lead the Spartans into their fourth consecutive Open Division state championship game. They rally their teammates with their actions on the field rather than their voices.
"They're all pretty quiet," said De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson. "What they bring to the game is a lot of physicality. Hutch, Hooper and D.J. game in and game out are our guys making plays and hits out there."
Hutchings, Moffitt, Hooper and Egu help make up a front seven that has handcuffed prolific offenses the last two weeks. Hooper and Egu make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks from their defensive end spots, and linebackers Hutchings and Moffitt consistently deliver the biggest hits on ball carriers.
Hutchings, a four-star recruit by Scout and Rivals, has been the backbone of the De La Salle defense with Moffitt, Hooper and Egu all missing time earlier this year with injuries.
Coach Bob Ladouceur says Hutchings, a USC-bound middle linebacker, is as important to this year's team as Blake Renaud (Boise State) and Brady Amack (Army) were to recent squads. Hutchings took over where Michael Barton, now at Cal, left off last year, becoming the quarterback of the defense, Eidson said.
"He can assess the other team's offense, reading plays and letting the others know what is coming," Eidson said of Hutchings. "He's really stepped up this season."
"I learned a lot from (Barton), we've been close since my sophomore year and still are," said Hutchings, a three-year starter. "I learned work ethic from him and how to read and study teams and to let my play do the talking."
Hooper missed five games during the regular season with a partial MCL tear. It's no coincidence that the Spartans defense has been at its best in recent weeks with its star defensive end now 100 percent. Hooper, who is 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds and also starts at tight end, has a long list of college suitors, including most of the Pac-12.
Egu, a Cal commit, and Moffitt, who holds offers from seven Division I schools according to Scout, both sat out games with concussions but have made big plays for a starting defensive unit that has allowed just 14 points in its last three playoff games. Egu has three sacks and a pick-six in that stretch.
On Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, the Spartans defense will face its biggest challenge yet in a Centennial-Corona squad that is averaging a state-best 50.4 points with a balanced attack.
How the Spartans perform Saturday could define their legacy. Ladouceur already calls this De La Salle defense one of his best ever. Eidson also has heaps of praise for this year's group but wants to see how they fare in their final test Saturday before making any comparisons.
"So far, they rank up there as one of the best, for sure," said Ladouceur, who has been coaching the Spartans since 1979. "Let's see what they can do against (Centennial) because they're hard to defend."
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Home Depot Center
All Games on CSNCA
Division IV: Central Catholic-Modesto (13-2) vs. Santa Fe Christian-Solana Beach (11-3), 4 p.m.
Division I: Granite Bay (12-3) vs. Long Beach Poly (12-3), 8 p.m.
Division III: Marin Catholic (14-1) vs. Madison-San Diego (13-1), noon
Division II: Oakdale (14-1) vs. Serra-Gardena (13-2), 4 p.m.
Open: De La Salle (14-0) vs. Centennial-Corona (14-1), 8 p.m.