A week before the start of his final high school football season, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings walked into the coaches’ room and showed off the framed photographs hanging on the walls. He took a step toward the 2011 team picture, which he was a part of, and looked at it closely.
“Every year we come in, as soon as we start, (the goal) is to win the CIF state bowl game,” Hutchings said in August. “It takes a lot of work to get there.”
Well, the work has certainly been done.
On Saturday night, Hutchings and De La Salle will seek their fourth consecutive state bowl game victory at the Home Depot Center in Carson. De La Salle (14-0), the No. 3 team in the ESPN 25 power rankings heading into the weekend, defeated previously unbeaten Folsom (Calif.) last week, 49-15, in the CIF Open Division Northern California Regional Championship Bowl Game. The perennial powerhouse has only one win of fewer than 10 points this season.
Their opponent, Corona (Calif.) Centennial, has thrived in the underdog role, eliminating highly regarded Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne on its way to the title game. Neither Vista Murrieta or Narbonne had lost prior to meeting Centennial and its up-tempo spread offense. Centennial has scored at least 30 points in every game.
"Extremely excited for the last game of the season and my career," Hutchings said. "It's going to be the best team I have faced in my career at De La Salle. They have a St. Thomas Aquinas-type talent with Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman-sized line and they are balanced. It's going to be a real test for our team, but we are ready for it at this point."
De La Salle and its defense certainly appears ready. Led by Hutchings, the USC commit who will officially visit Los Angeles on Jan. 18, De La Salle has not surrendered more than 24 points in any game this season.
Hutchings had a pair of sacks and an interception in the win against Folsom last week. The four-star linebacker has help from four-star defensive end Austin Hooper, four-star linebacker Victor Egu and three-star linebacker D.J. Moffitt.
De La Salle and Hutchings have accomplished plenty, but the work isn’t done.