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|| News Item: Posted 2003-11-16

'The cover photograph literally makes the book run right off the shelf'
Bob Larson's photographs illustrate hot-selling book about De La Salle football

By Brad Mangin,

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Bob Larson signs a copy of 'When the Game Stands Tall' for a fan at De La Salle High on Friday night, November 14, 2003.
December 7, 1991 was a dark, cold and foggy night at the Oakland Coliseum. The De La Salle High School football team from Concord, Calif. was playing Pittsburg High School for the North Coast Section Championship. Pittsburg came out on top that night 35-27 as current New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer suited up for the De La Salle Spartans for the last time. That was the last time the Spartans lost a football game. They have now won 148 straight contests. The "Streak" is alive and well and has become a growing national story.

Contra Costa Times photographer and member Bob Larson was on assignment covering the game for the paper. "I had no idea who De La Salle was at the time. They were just another high school football team to me," said Larson while talking about the first NCS Championship game he had covered since he had been hired by The Times earlier in 1991.

Twelve years and 148 straight victories later Larson and the Spartans have come together in a new book written by Contra Costa Times sports columnist Neil Hayes that has just been released entitled "When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football's Longest Winning Streak." The 428 page hardcover book published by Frog Ltd. is illustrated with 45 black and white photographs by Larson in an insert in the center of the book, along with a color photograph on the cover also by Larson.

Larson began covering De La Salle extensively during the 1997 season when the Spartans approached the national record of 72 consecutive wins held by Hudson, Mich. (1968-75). Since then he has covered a few games every season and even covered them on the road when the Spartans streak was on the line against the St. Louis Crusaders in front of 30,000 fans at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 21, 2002. De La Salle won that night 31-21 to extend their streak to 127 in a row.

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Author Neil Hayes (with Bob Larson in the background) greets the fans while signing a copy of 'When the Game Stands Tall' at De La Salle High on Friday night, November 14, 2003.
Larson had the pleasure to work on this project alongside one of the great people in the sports writing business, Neil Hayes. Hailing from Kings, Illinois, Hayes is known more locally for his fine writing than his notorious off-field hitting in fast-pitch softball. Larson has high praise for Hayes. "He's the easiest person to get along with. We had beers one night and edited a pile of over 100 pictures down to the final 46 that they ended up running in the book and on the cover. Neil captioned all the photos to keep the same flow as the book," said Larson.

Hayes knew that having good pictures to go along with his first-ever book was very important. "One of my biggest challenges in writing this book was physically describing the main characters so the reader could see them in their mind's eye. About halfway through the project I realized I could take the pressure off myself because Bob's pictures would bring the characters and their stories to life. It was a huge relief," Hayes said.

"I knew Bob was a super photographer --- we had worked together on various newspaper assignments --- but once I started to understand the width and scope of collection of De La Salle football photos I realized we had to get as many of them in the book as possible. They tell the story better than any writer ever could. His cover photograph literally makes the book run right off the shelf," Hayes added.

The initial press run of 6,000 copies has already sold out after only one week and a second run is underway. Larson and Hayes appeared together recently at a book signing at De La Salle High School, along with Spartan head coach Bob Ladouceur and defensive coordinator Terry Eidson. Larson and Hayes signed hundreds of books that night, and received plenty of compliments from Spartan parents and supporters. One woman even told Larson that his name should be on the cover of the book alongside Hayes' name.

Photo by
Larson, who has conducted breakout classes, "Community Journalism: Covering Prep Sports" during the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau the last two years (2002 & 2003), will continue to cover the Spartans as long as the streak continues and beyond. "I plan on covering them as long as I can. If they do ever lose a game they will probably start another winning streak right after," says Larson.

A gallery of Bob Larson's photos can be found on his member page:

The book "When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football's Longest Winning Streak" is available in our bookshelf:

Related Links:
Bob Larson's member gallery
Book: When the Game Stands Tall
ALOHA! Prep Football, Hawaiian Style
Friday Night Football: covering prep football

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