Writeups by Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens, Harold Abend
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In the end, all the hoopla about Saturday’s CIF Northern California Open Division regional final between De La Salle of Concord and Folsom being the biggest game in Sacramento history wound up being just another example of why the Spartans have had no equal not just in the north but in the entire state for the last four seasons.
De La Salle’s 49-15 win before 10,197 at Sacramento State’s Hornet Field advanced the team to next Saturday’s CIF Open Division state bowl championship where it will meet Centennial of Corona with a chance to win a fourth straight CIF state crown. The Huskies, who are the last California team to defeat the Spartans (in the 2008 Division I bowl game), won their 14th straight game by topping Narbonne of Harbor City 41-34 in Saturday’s CIF Southern California Open Division regional final.
Folsom sophomore quarterback Jake Browning was under pressure from the first snap, but did finish with 282 passing yards to break the single season Cal-Hi Sports state record of 5,185 yards set last season by Folsom’s Tanner Trosin. Browning, who had to throw 64 times with 38 complete, ended his season with 5,246 yards. He also did not set a new state single-season TD pass record. He needed four to tie the state record of 65 set in 1999 by Robert De La Cruz from Cathedral of Los Angeles, but only threw a pair to get to 63 for his final season total.
“We have played really well for our last four games,” said De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur, whose team will be in a state bowl game for the eighth straight year and whose team will be the only unbeaten team (14-0) in this year’s bowl games. “They can make up a lot of points fast, but our defense played great and we had a couple of really good interceptions.”
A couple of really good receptions by 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end/defensive end Austin Hooper helped the Spartans grab a 28-7 lead at halftime. Hooper first struck by getting wide open on the team’s second play of the game for a 53-yard gainer to the Folsom 3-yard line. That set up Tiapepe Vitale for a three-yard touchdown. Then just before halftime, Hooper took a short pass, broke tackles and powered his way for a 47-yard gain to Folsom’s 1-yard line. Vitale then scored on the next play.
Hooper also was the main weapon to slow down Folsom’s spread offense. He charged in for three of the team’s six sacks of Browning and also deflected a pair of passes.“We knew if their quarterback just sits back there that could be trouble,” Hooper said. “We wanted to pressure him and also give him no room to run. We felt we could be successful doing that. A lot of those were coverage sacks, too. Our secondary did a great job.”
Following Vitale’s opening touchdown, the Spartans (who have been No. 1 in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings since the preseason) struck again on their second series, this time driving 64 yards on seven plays with the clincher coming on Das Tautalatasi’s nine-yard run.
Folsom (which was No. 3 in the state coming in and finished 14-1) then fell behind 21-0 after going for it on fourth down deep inside its own territory. The Bulldogs did that four other times during the game and only converted once. That touchdown came on a fourth-down play by the Spartans when junior quarterback Chris Williams tossed a four-yard TD to Andrew Buckley.
Folsom’s highlight for the first half was 19-play, 79-yard drive in the second quarter. The Bulldogs did convert on a couple of fourth down plays in that drive. They scored their first touchdown on a two-yard pass from Browning to senior Phillip Carter.
In the second half, any hopes of a Folsom comeback were squashed when the Bulldogs couldn’t score on three possessions. Then with 3:20 left in the third quarter, the Spartans cashed in with a six-yard touchdown run by Vitale for a 35-7 lead.
“We’ve been preparing them all year to be a state contender,” Ladouceur said. “We got off to a little of a slow start, but then got healthy and took off.”
As is custom, De La Salle won’t take off on a flight to the Home Depot Center in Carson for next week’s game. The team instead will board busses for an express down Interstate 5. And this is one express that might not be stopped soon.
Oakdale holds off Clayton Valley for NorCal D2 title
Lincoln High School in Stockton is used to a sea of red on the home side of the stands, but on Saturday night it was the red of Oakdale that took over and that sea of red went home happy as the Mustangs defeated Clayton Valley of Concord 27-24 in the CIF Northern California Division II regional game in what was the best game of all the NorCal bowl matchups.
“I think the whole town is here,” said Mustangs’ quarterback Spencer Thomas, who connected for four touchdown passes. “I think I saw people over there (points to far end) and even in the end zone. It’s great to have the support of the town and everyone like this.”
Oakdale advances to its first-ever CIF state bowl game. The Mustangs, who have won 13 straight games since losing in their second game 34-14 to Oceanside, will play Serra of Gardena in next Saturday’s Division II matchup.
After a low scoring first half that saw Clayton Valley’s Garrett Nelson kick a 33-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 9-7 halftime lead, the offenses exploded in the second half as Oakdale methodically worked the ball down the field on the first series of the half and got a bit lucky as a deflected ball was caught in the back of the end zone by Austin Jones for a 14-yard score and a 14-9 lead.
Clayton Valley (12-2) then went on a nice drive of its own, scoring on a 7-yard run by Tanner Wraa for a 17-14 lead with 1:03 left in the third quarter. The celebratory feeling on the Eagles’ sidelines wouldn’t last long, though, as Thomas found a wide open Jones for a 70-yard touchdown on the very next offensive play.
Clayton Valley’s situation then got much worse due to an injury to leading rusher Joe Protheroe and an interception by Oakdale on the final play of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Dewayne Finney caught a 30-yard touchdown pass to extend Oakdale’s lead to 27-17, but Mikey Protheroe answered right back for Clayton Valley with a three-yard TD run and a 27-24 score.
Clayton Valley had two more chances to perhaps go back in front, but on the second chance there was only 25.9 seconds left. Oakdale stopped the previous series on downs with 4:25 remaining.
“Unbelievable. I don’t have words to explain our kids’ effort tonight,” said an excited Oakdale coach Trent Merzon after the game. “It’s an amazing feeling. Our goal was to win a section title and we sold out for it and I had no idea what was going to be left in the tank for tonight. What a great game.“
Strong second half propels Marin Catholic to NorCal D3 win
The boys from Marin Catholic of Kentfield endured a three-and-a-half hour bus ride on Saturday, nearly the entire 3,000 residents of Sutter screaming and using a train horn, cow bells and other various noisemakers on their side of the packed stands, a fumble in the red zone on their opening drive, and a 7-0 early second quarter deficit.
In the end, the arm of the Wildcats’ Jared Goff was more than the boys from the shadows of the Sutter Buttes could overcome. Marin Catholic (14-1) went home with a 23-7 victory, won the first CIF Division III Northern California regional title and gained a berth in next week’s Division III state final opposite Madison of San Diego.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Cal-bound quarterback finished 16 of 23 for 216 yards and two touchdowns, both in the span of 1:28 to begin the third quarter.
With the teams tied 7-7 at the half, Marin Catholic took the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in seven plays, culminating in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Billy Alton.
Sutter (13-1) got the kickoff deep in its own end, but after two solid gains quarterback Trent Little threw an interception that Marin Catholic’s Jared Lazor returned to the Huskies’ 14-yard line. It was Lazor’s second straight week with a key interception.
On the very next play, Goff threw a dart to Keegan Mulcahy for a 14-yard score and the steam was out of Sutter.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my boys,” said Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds. “They brought everything they had, but when you play Goliath you can’t make mistakes.”
Goff might not be Goliath, but his performance was quite impressive, and despite not throwing for huge numbers, it was his accuracy that was extraordinary.
His early fourth quarter 24-yard completion to Andrew Celis on third-and-16 split three defenders like a knife. It led to a 15-play drive that ate up over 6 minutes and culminated in a 19-yard field goal by Chris Hill that closed out the scoring with 2:22 remaining.
“We’ve never seen a quarterback like him in these parts ever,” said former Sutter Coach Scott Turner, the spotter in the press box who was seated next to the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan. “His accuracy, velocity and ability to deliver the ball was outstanding.”
Marin Catholic running back Akili Terry rushed for one TD but he only had 62 yards rushing on 17 carries against the solid tackling of the well-disciplined Sutter run defense.
The defense of Marin Catholic was just as impressive as the offense, holding a Sutter rushing offense that came into the game averaging just under 300 yards per game rushing to 156 yards on 40 carries. Leading rusher Nathan Ahlers was held to 52 yards on 13 carries before going out with an injury near the end of the third quarter. He did not return.
Alex Poksay spent a lot of time in the Sutter backfield. The 6-foot, 205-pound Wildcats’ linebacker had a sack, four tackles for loss and 16 total tackles. Sam Killpack recorded his ninth interception.
Little rushed for 57 yards, including a 1-yard keeper for Sutter’s only score, but with the run game not working, he was forced to pass and completed just 9 of 17 passes for 121 yards.
“The first half wasn’t our best performance, so for the second half we just tried to stay focused on the basics and settle down,” said Marin Catholic coach Mazi Moayed, who added he felt Sutter was “a really class act.”
“They were a good solid team, and it was a fun game to play,” Goff remarked.
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