30Q-2-KICKOFF (No. 15): Life on Winton Dr.

Today, we plant ourselves at the corner of Treat Blvd. and Winton Dr. in Concord. What’s up behind the oleanders at De La Salle?

The last time we saw the Spartans, they were trudging off the quagmire that was the Home Depot Center. Of course, they were smiling ear to ear after a 48-8 win over Servite-Anaheim.

That senior class is gone. Dylan Wynn, Blake Renaud, Lucas Dunne, Antoine Pickett, the list goes on and on. It was the best high school team I’ve ever covered, without a doubt. Now, it’s time to see who steps into those shoes as team leaders for the state’s No. 1 team.

It starts under center with Bart Houston. Headed for Wisconsin in 2012, Houston has never lost as a varsity starter. He had a great junior year, and he should be even better this time around. No problems there for DLS.

In fact, there aren’t a ton of questions surrounding the Spartans this year. Perhaps the biggest is who steps in to fill the void created by Dunne’s departure. Last year’s No. 2 back, Joe Te’o, is on the mend from a knee problem and will miss some time at the beginning. Other guys who got touches last year include Frankie Santelises, Eddie Prospero and Tiapepe Vitale. So, I’d expect one starter to come from that list. There have been rumors that perhaps other players might get shifted to the backfield (maybe linebacker uber-recruit Michael Hutchings?), but we’ll see how that all shakes out.

The Spartans welcome in another new collection up front, with Luc Hamilton the only starter returning to the offensive line. The thing about DLS though is the backups got plenty of time last year, and guys like Justin Walker and Chris Olinger are ready to step in. I anticipate that the heavies will be strong again.

Defensively, DLS is going to be great again. Walker is the leader up front, and he’ll be hungry after having to miss the state title game due to injury. Cal-bound linebacker Michael Barton and Hutchings, who has a bunch of scholarship offers already, return to lead the linebackers. And in the secondary, guys like Prospero and Santelises should get some run. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams play there too.

So, the talent seems not to be an issue. What about the schedule? It starts with a home game against Bellarmine, a matchup between two of Northern California’s top teams. No cakewalk there. Then, it’s St. Mary’s-Stockton on the road, definitely not a walkover game. 

Then we come to the biggie, a road trip to Florida to take on St. Thomas Aquinas. The last time DLS went out of state, they found little success at Don Bosco Prep. This time, I think the Spartans are much better equipped for out of state success. I expect this to be every bit the game you would expect.

League hits with road games at Livermore and Foothill. Amador at home, and a road game at Monte Vista give way to the final three at home against SRV, Granada and Cal. It’s a friendly schedule for the Spartans this year in terms of home versus away in league.

Of course, whether the Spartans get considered for a third-straight trip to the Open Division bowl game hinges on how they get out of the gate. They’ll need to play well in the three nonleague games to stay atop the rankings. My conclusion at this point is if you liked last year’s team, there’s still a lot to like this season.

Ben Enos