Gridiron Duel A revealing look at the biggest high school football game ever played

November 17, 2003

by Don Wallace
Atria Books, $26.00

High school football may never have a true national championship
game, but it came close to having one on Oct. 6, 2001, when the
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly Jackrabbits played the De La Salle
Spartans of Concord, Calif. Poly came into the game with the No.
1 ranking in the USA Today poll; De La Salle was No. 2 and was
riding a U.S. high-school-record 116-game winning streak.

When the perennial powerhouses, who had never faced each other,
scheduled the game in January 2001, the buildup began almost
immediately. Don Wallace's enjoyable book chronicles the game and
the contrasts between its combatants. Poly is a Southern
California urban public school traditionally laden with college
prospects; De La Salle, a Catholic school in a Northern
California suburb, is known for the intensity of its program,
which includes a rigorous year-round conditioning plan.

Wallace, a Poly grad, gives an evenhanded account while conveying
the excitement the game created. When a Poly coach declares, "I
wish I could suit up and play," you understand what he means. De
La Salle won 29-15 (its winning streak has reached 146 games),
but knowing the outcome takes surprisingly little away from the
--Bill Syken