CONCORD -- He's replacing the winningest high school football coach in California and taking over one of the most storied prep programs in American sports.

On this day, though, De La Salle High football coach Justin Alumbaugh is just trying to get a simple point across to his senior players. Unless they want to be stuck with "some janky number," he says to their amusement, they need to check with him about jerseys as soon as possible.

Alumbaugh, 33, is the successor to Bob Ladouceur, who stepped down as the Spartans' coach in January after 34 years and an unprecedented run of success.

Alumbaugh's personality -- extroverted and outgoing -- is different from that of the man he is replacing. So is his coaching style, at least at first glance.

De La Salle High’s new head football coach Justin Alumbaugh, has his photo taken next to the football field Spartan logo in Concord, Calif., on
De La Salle High's new head football coach Justin Alumbaugh, has his photo taken next to the football field Spartan logo in Concord, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Alumbaug takes over the state's most elite high school football program from the reins of the legendary Bob Ladouceur, who retired this spring after 33 years. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

"He's his own guy," Ladouceur said. "But I think the area of what we want for the kids -- our concept of team, our philosophy of coaching, even our knowledge of coaching -- is pretty close."

Alumbaugh was promoted to head coach on the same day Ladouceur, who finished with a career record of 399-25-3, announced he was stepping down. Ladouceur knew more than a decade ago, back when Alumbaugh was barely out of college, that he wanted the former Spartan standout to be his eventual replacement.

"Some people are just born to be coaches, and we recognized that in Justin at a young age," said De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson, Ladouceur's coaching partner since 1982. "As a player for us he was like a coach on the field. ... He had the rare ability to see the subtleties of the game and pick things up quickly, and had the skill of teaching kids in a way they could understand and relate to."


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Alumbaugh, who played baseball and football at De La Salle, never lost a game as a three-year starter for Ladouceur. He was an inside linebacker and tight end as a senior in 1997 when he was a near-unanimous pick for team captain. That year the Spartans' winning streak hit 73 games, snapping the previous national record.

Even as an underclassman, Alumbaugh had the respect of his elder teammates. Greg Brown-Davis remembers dedicating his commitment card -- a staple of the De La Salle program that requires players to pledge a weekly goal to a teammate -- to his younger friend.

"I committed to Justin for the full year, just because of my measure of respect for him as a player and his accountability level," said Brown-Davis, who is now an English teacher and a junior varsity football coach at De La Salle. "He wouldn't let me slack."

Alumbaugh hadn't yet taken his first class at UCLA, where he was a walk-on member of the baseball team, when he started coaching at De La Salle. Ladouceur, sensing that Alumbaugh had a gift for coaching, asked the 18-year-old to come out to a summer practice and help with the linebackers.

"He was just a natural," Ladouceur said. "He knew all the coaching points. He was one of their peers and yet there was a respect and authority that the kids had for him. I knew right then he'd make a great coach."

For the next four years, Alumbaugh helped coach the Spartans right up until fall classes began for him at UCLA.

With a little encouragement from Ladouceur, Alumbaugh started to teach and coach full time after he graduated with a history degree in 2002. He turned down a well-paying sales job in San Francisco to take a position as a long-term substitute at De La Salle while also taking on more responsibility with the Spartans' coaching staff.

"He talked about how it was a noble profession," Alumbaugh recalled of his conversation with Ladouceur about teaching. "He said he thought I had a gift for it and it was something I'd be really happy doing and really fulfilled. When you hear your mentor talk like that you go, 'I think I should probably listen to him.'"

For more than 10 years now, Alumbaugh has coached the linebackers and offensive line while also running the Spartans' weight-training and offseason conditioning programs. He teaches English and history at De La Salle.

"Coach 'Baugh has been in the program for a while and there are no big changes, just the title change," senior Dasmond Tautalatasi said. "Everything's still the same, going smooth."

Ladouceur still teaches religious studies at the school and has been at just about all of the Spartans' summer practices. He'll coach the running backs and tight ends this year and will be on the sideline for every game. But it'll be Alumbaugh calling the plays.

"He's instilling the same (values as Ladouceur) that he wants all his players to have -- hard work and dedication to the team," Tautalatasi said.

Expectations are always high at De La Salle. The Spartans have won every North Coast Section Division I title since 1992 and they are the only program to play in a state bowl game every year.

They're nationally ranked in several preseason polls, including a No. 1 ranking by MaxPreps.com, but meeting those expectations is not where Alumbaugh said he feels the most pressure.

"There's an expectation for how our kids should be trained, how they should behave and obviously how they should play on the field," Alumbaugh said. "And that's where I feel a lot of pressure."

Justin Alumbaugh

Age: 33
Hometown: Danville
Claim to fame: De La Salle High's new head football coach, taking over for the legendary Bob Ladouceur
Quote: "I think great coaches are great educators and there's a lot of commonality in what they all do -- getting kids to reassess what their limits and abilities are, and getting them to work and achieve what they can as best they can. No matter where you are, science class or out on the field, it's pretty much the same thing."