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January 7, 2011

De La Salle already eyeing 2011 title

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SAN ANTONIO - After steamrolling through their CIF Bowl game on Dec. 18, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle teammates quarterback Bart Houston and linebacker Michael Barton didn't take much time off to celebrate.

In fact, during their workouts leading up to Friday's U.S. Army National Junior Combine, both said they are already looking forward to next season.

When asked about the team's goal for next season, Barton answered easily.

"Go 15-0 and win a state title," Barton said. "Of course we expect to do that every year."

That might seem a bit presumptuous for almost any team in the country. Except for De La Salle, that is. All the team did this year was go 14-0, finish ranked No. 4 in the RivalsHigh 100 and steamroll a nationally-ranked Anaheim (Calif.) Servite team, 48-8, to win a CIF title.

That last part even surprised Barton.

"We saw the tape of (Servite) and thought they were pretty tough," Barton said.

Servite, however, had no answer for De La Salle's powerful running game.

"I basically just had to hand off," Houston said. "I had the best seat in the house to watch the game."

It might have been the best seat in the house, but it certainly wasn't the driest.

All of the CIF games were played in torrential rains that left the field a muddy, sloppy mess and led to some creative field sliding celebrations.

It also required the footballs and towels to be put into a contraption called the Game Changer, which in essence is a football oven.

"The last time I played a game like that, I was probably 10 years old," Houston laughed. "That was schoolyard football."

As it seems for one of the best-known high school programs in the country, De La Salle actually surprised a few teams in California in its run. The perennial power was thought to behind a number of teams in the state, starting the year at No. 5 in the Golden State.

But with 10 players now heading for Division I rosters, Houston described the team as the greatest team he's ever been a part of.

"Hands down, yeah," he said. "We had a complete season. Everybody played well, especially in the state game. Our line, in the first half, probably was close to perfect. Then, they didn't stop from there. They just kept going. It was just the tenacity of our line, just going and not stopping. And there was Lucas Dunne. He just ran like he had Vaseline on him; they couldn't tackle him."

Houston didn't fare too badly himself this season, completing 102-of-153 passes (67 percent) for 1,922 yards, 20 touchdowns and just four picks for a 138.0 QB rating. He also rushed for 236 yards and 11 TDs - "We would have averaged over four yards per QB sneak if we weren't stopped by the end zone," Houston joked.

And it's hard to see what will be able to stop De La Salle next season, either. Despite some losses to graduation on the offensive line, players such as Houston and Barton figure to put De La Salle atop the California polls and in the preseason Top 10 nationally.

Also joining the team next season? Houston's "little" brother, who is a freshman at De La Salle and already as tall as his older brother. The two will have quite a sibling rivalry in practice, as the younger Houston will be playing defensive end, trying to knock his big bro on his back.

"That's just so weird," he laughed. "Having brothers play on the same team, man, that's just going to be weird. He was supposed to be 6-2, and he's my height now, so he's going to be like, 6-6. He's a defensive end and plays O-line/D-line."

All that adds up to being in the hunt for not just another state title, but a potential national title as well.

And unlike other programs, De La Salle freely admits it looks at the national polls as well.

"National championships are great, too," Houston said.

- Read more on Houston's recruiting situation from Ryan Gorcey: Houston eyes No. 1

Army All-American Combine: Top talent responds at the combine

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