CONCORD -- It may have been just a coincidence, or -- more likely -- a calculated decision.
When Bob Ladouceur announced in January that he was stepping down as De La Salle High's head football coach after 34 seasons, he left successor Justin Alumbaugh with plenty of talent remaining.
After going 15-0 and winning a fourth consecutive state championship last fall, De La Salle won't have too many giant holes to fill in Alumbaugh's first year on the job. The Spartans are especially loaded on offense, with a massive but athletic offensive line leading the way.
In fact, the Spartans look so good on paper that MaxPreps.com tabbed them as the No. 1 team in the nation in its preseason rankings.
Left tackle Sumner Houston (6-foot-3, 260 pounds), left guard Larry Allen III (6-3, 285) and right guard Drew Sullivan (6-2, 306) are all returning starters.
Center Brian Joyce (5-10, 225) and right tackle Boss Tagaloa (6-2, 286), a sophomore, will also take on starting roles.
"I'm actually one of the smallest ones," said Houston, who's committed to Oregon State. "We're big but what we haven't lost from the traditional (De La Salle) lines is the speed off the ball and toughness. We're keeping that alive."
The line will also be bolstered by the addition of Kahlil McKenzie, a transfer from Wisconsin who is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. At 6-foot-3, 316 pounds, McKenzie is the biggest guy on the team and will contribute on both sides of the ball.
Kevin Koenig gives the Spartans' offensive line even more depth, but Alumbaugh is staying grounded about the riches he's inherited.
"Everybody talks about how many linemen we have back, but we lost a lot, too," Alumbaugh said. "We'll see how these guys respond... There's a big difference between what's expected of you as a junior and what's expected of you as a senior. We'll see how well they answer the challenge."
The Spartans also return quarterback Chris Williams along with running back Dasmond Tautalatasi, who will start at outside linebacker, as well.
The defense has more question marks as the Spartans move on without the four Division I players that anchored last year's unit.
Houston is the only returning starter on the defensive line, but the three-year starter is a strong piece to build around.
Cameron Lissarrague returns at inside linebacker while junior Simba Short has impressed in earning a starting spot at outside linebacker.
"How he's playing and how he's approaching the game, he's one of the most impressive improvements from last year," Alumbaugh said of Short. "He's playing really well right now in practice."
Cornerback Kevin Griffin, a Washington State commit, will lead the secondary.
De La Salle is no longer a member of the East Bay Athletic League in football, but will still play the perennial powers in that league. There's no out-of-state power on the schedule this year, though the Spartans will travel to Anaheim to take on a seasoned Servite squad in early October.
But mostly, the schedule is comprised of some of the top teams Northern California has to offer.
"I think people downplay how good Northern California football can really be," Alumbaugh said. "There are some really, really good teams and we're playing a lot of them... Every week our guys are going to have to play really well."
The De La Salle file
COACH: Justin Alumbaugh, first year
2012 RECORD: 15-0
TOP RETURNERS: RB/LB Dasmond Tautalatasi, Sr.; QB Chris Williams, Sr.; OL/DL Sumner Houston, Sr.; OL Larry Allen III, Sr.; OL Drew Sullivan, Jr.; OL/DL Boss Tagaloa, Sr.; WR/DB Marquis Morris, Sr.; WR/DB Kevin Griffin, Sr.; LB Simba Short, Jr.; LB Cameron Lissarrague, Jr.; OL/DL Kevin Koenig, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: WR/DB Adam Mayer, Jr.; OL/DL Kahlil McKenzie, Jr.; TE/LB Devin Asiasi, So.
KEY LOSSES: LB Michael Hutchings; LB/TE D.J. Moffitt; TE/DL Austin Hooper, DL Victor Egu, RB Tiapepe Vitale, OL Wade Ogburn
8/30 CLAYTON VALLEY 7:30 p.m.
9/7 at Serra-San Mateo 1 p.m.
9/13 at St. Mary's-Sto. 7:15 p.m.
9/20 DEL ORO 7 p.m.
9/27 S. RAMON VALLEY 7 p.m.
10/5 vs. Servite# 7:30 p.m.
10/18 JAMES LOGAN 7 p.m.
10/25 AMADOR VALLEY 7 p.m.
11/1 at Monte Vista 7 p.m.
11/8 CALIFORNIA 7 p.m.
# at Santa Ana Stadium