De La Salle High School insiders got an early look Tuesday at perhaps the most anticipated high school sports film in local history, two months before the story of the school's football team and its record-breaking 151-game winning streak hits theaters nationwide on Aug. 22.
And the verdict? A quiet, but consistent, thumbs up.
The screening of "When The Game Stands Tall" at Century 16 Theater in Pleasant Hill was hush-hush. Media members -- the few sportswriters who¿ were invited -- had to agree to not write about what they saw in their publications.
"The idea for this screening is twofold; to get feedback from the public prior to final release and to promote the film by sharing it with influential people in local communities," the emailed invite stated. "We think you will offer value to both objectives." It was signed by Tim Roberts (class of '88, director of alumni relations), Leo Lopoz ('94, director of athletics), and (Joe Koller '97, founder of Slot Right Marketing.)
Lopoz wasn't available for comment Thursday. Roberts seemed happy to talk, but declined, saying that he had agreed not to.
"When the Game Stands Tall" is the film adaptation of former Contra Costa Times columnist Neil Hayes' 2003 book about coach Bob Ladouceur and De La Salle's football program.
Directed by Thomas Carter, it follows the now-retired Ladouceur -- played by Jim Caviezel -- through the experience of leading the Spartans through the team's 151-game winning streak, which ran from 1992 to 2003 and shattered all records for any American sport.
Neither Ladouceur nor assistant coach Terry Eidson were at the Tuesday screening.
Reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, Eidson, explained why: "They said I didn't need to go. I've already seen it four times."
Though the local sportswriters who attended the screening weren't allowed to write about it officially, they weren't discouraged from posting their thoughts on social media.
Matt Schwab, who attended for the Bay Area News Group, shared on Facebook, "Whatever your opinion is about the De La Salle football juggernaut, the film leaves you with a distinct impression that the guys who buy into the program are in very good hands and are afforded every opportunity to become successful young men."
Longtime De La Salle booster Rocco Biale, who owns Rocco's Ristorante Pizzeria in Walnut Creek, acknowledged it was a test screening "stacked" by De La Salle boosters. Yet, the film still worked.
"I thought they stayed very true to the book," said Biale, who calls Hayes a friend. "Creative liberties are involved, but nothing terrible."
Former De La Salle star Patrick Walsh, now the head coach at Serra High School, said the film's portrayal of his former coach rang true.
"I think Caviezel and the plot held true to who Coach Lad really is and his message," Walsh said, in an email. "I was worried about that. Slamming 12 years into two hours must be tough, but I would have liked for it to have (been more chronologically accurate). I also know that creative liberties must be taken to make a Hollywood movie, but we never lost to Clayton Valley."