On back-to-back nights, we checked out the top two-ranked teams in Northern California. It’s going to be nearly impossible for No. 2 Folsom to be able to wrest the region’s No. 1 ranking away from De La Salle of Concord but the Bulldogs are clearly closer to the elite level of the Spartans than they were last year.
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Jake Browning, the state record breaking quarterback from Folsom, refuses to ever watch the De La Salle of Concord-based movie “When The Game Stands Tall.”
Browning also isn’t yet interested in thinking about any scenarios involving the CIF Northern California Open Division bowl bid even though the CIF’s decision not to have a NorCal Open Division game this year probably means that the Bulldogs won’t get a third chance to perhaps beat De La Salle.
“It’ just way too early for that,” he said while walking off the field after his team pinned a 63-0 loss on Granite Bay last Friday night at Prairie City Stadium. “We haven’t even played Del Oro (Loomis) yet and haven’t even made the playoffs.”That type of thinking makes sense, but looking ahead and going over various scenarios is one of the things we do best at Cal-Hi Sports. That’s why last weekend we had to jump at the chance to see Folsom and De La Salle on back-to-back nights.
The Bulldogs easily dispatched Granite Bay, which is not close to the level it was two years ago when it ended up winning the CIF Division I state bowl game. De La Salle’s matchup the next night against Servite of Anaheim (another of the state’s top teams) was more of a test and although the Friars were in it until the third quarter it was another Spartan win, this time 47-24.
Going by history, it’s easy to see De La Salle winning the rest of its regular season games, then another CIF North Coast Section Division I title. Folsom hasn’t rolled as easily in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs (the Bulldogs lost in the D2 final in 2011 to Vacaville) but based on results so far it’s hard to envision the team not dominating in the Division I section playoffs this time around for the third straight year.
Those two teams would then be on the board for the NorCal Open Division bowl berth and it would be equally shocking if De La Salle wasn’t selected. The Spartans beat Browning and the Bulldogs easily in the NorCal D1 bowl game the last two years — 49-15 and 45-17 – and there’s just no other way to look at it.
Still, in watching the two teams, Folsom is closer to that elite level that De La Salle seems to reach just about every season. Here’s a position by position breakdown:
Quarterback – Browning did not get bigger or stronger or faster than he was as a junior, but his throws might even be better. His stats also will be better because the Folsom defense is going to get the Folsom offense the ball back much faster and Folsom’s receiving corps as a group is perhaps its best yet. Anthony Sweeney missed the first two games for De La Salle, but started by the Byrnes game and has been outstanding running the veer option offense. He also provides an explosiveness as a runner that has been lacking the last few seasons. EDGE: Folsom.
Running Backs – While Folsom’s Bryan Welty and Tre Green got more carries against Granite Bay and looked good at times on sweeps, the De La Salle duo of Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez has a chance to be one of the best combos the school has ever had. Both are juniors and both already can break that initial tackle and take the play to the end zone. Custer should be one of the state’s top running back recruits next season. EDGE: De La Salle.
Receivers – If anybody thought the graduation loss of Troy Knox was going to seriously damage the Folsom passing game, boy was that wrong. Cole Thompson has stepped into a starring role immediately, especially as teams in the early going seemed to spend a lot of resources on returnee Josiah Deguara (104 catches, 16 TDs last season). Jake Jeffrey, Jake Morgado and Parker Boone also can win balls in favorable matchups. Folsom doesn’t have a tight end, however, like Devin Asiasi of De La Salle. The Spartans also are still developing plays for speedster Jonathan Harvey and Adam Mayer’s return at receiver after an injury last year has been a big plus. EDGE: Folsom.
Offensive Line – While Folsom still has three-year starter and Arizona commit Cody Creason anchoring its unit, the DLS offensive line is still as a unit hard to beat. Drew Sullivan (6-3, 320) plays at the same level as Creason and is most definitely a Pac 12 level recruit. Meanwhile, Boss Tagaloa (6-3, 300) might end up as one of the best offensive linemen next year in the nation. Seniors Blake Ogburn (6-3, 230) and Matt Medeiros (6-0, 235) also are effective. There’s just not a weak spot in the group. EDGE: De La Salle.
Defensive Line – This is one area in which Folsom is clearly closer to De La Salle’s level. If Kahlil McKenzie had not transferred to Clayton Valley, DLS would still have perhaps the top defensive line anywhere. But McKenzie is gone and it’s not as clear-cut. When we watched Folsom last Friday, the Bulldogs were still without 6-5, 275-pound Jonah Williams (out with a foot/ankle injury). Both Sam Whitney at one defensive end and Lukas Hendricks on the other side, however, both made plays and both are among the best in the SJS. Against Byrnes earlier in the season, De La Salle didn’t use Drew Sullivan at nose guard as much as it did against Servite. Asiasi at one defensive end, however, is simply a beast. A big-time D1 prospect for sure. Damon Wiley and Bumpy McGee also made plays for the DLS defensive line in both games as well. EDGE: De La Salle (but it might be even or Folsom slight edge once Jonah Williams comes back).
Linebackers – Injuries play a role in this comparison as well. For De La Salle, Northwestern-bound Simba Short had a shoulder injury in the first scrimmage and was limping after the Servite game. With Short and runningmate Cameron Lissarrague both operating at full speed, it’s a group that still isn’t as good as other DLS linebacking units of recent years but remains among the best in the state. For Folsom, it was great to see three-year starter Bailey Laolagi (6-2, 230) running around and making plays after he suffered a knee injury at the end of last season (he didn’t play in the bowl game). Laolagi should get D1 offers. Sam Whittingham was another effective defender for the Bulldogs. EDGE: De La Salle (but it’s closer than last year).
Defensive Backs – Folsom has made strides on this unit as well with a collection of tall, physical players who can all make plays on the ball in the air. De La Salle has a better DB than anyone Folsom has, however, in Je’Vari Anderson. He’s a 195-pound battering ram who also has been explosive returning kicks. EDGE: De La Salle.
Special Teams – Both kickers, Jordan Rodriguez for the Spartans and Troy Calderara for the Bulldogs, can equally get the job done on field goals and PATs. Calderara also is a name to watch for the state record book since he’s a sophomore and could get to kick more than 100 PATs in each of the next three seasons. The De La Salle return game, however, is always dangerous and remains so this year with Je’Vari Anderson. EDGE: De La Salle.
In summary, it is too bad these two teams won’t play at the end of the season. Folsom, in fact, could be one of the best teams ever in Northern California history but unfortunately will most likely not get to prove it. As of now, Folsom going 16-0 and winning the CIF Division I state title with De La Salle playing the CIFSS Pac-Five champion in the CIF Open Division bowl game seems like a very good bet.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports
I agree with this article 100%. The problem is that nearly all of the top programs in So. Cal now compete in one super playoff bracket (Pac5) so Folsom may end up playing a team like Oceanside or Corona Centennial in the D-1 game (those are my 2 choices for the regional game). Neither of those would make the Pac5 semifinals this year so you see the drop off. The Pac5 should have an exception to allow 2 teams if necessary. The other playoff brackets simply don’t have the same level of opposition.
Corona Centennial is now in the Pac-Five as well. The state CIF faces the same problem in basketball with the Southern Section’s super divisions.
the two top teams from Nocal are DLS and Folsom. DLS will be in the open and folsom D1 game. for Socal the Pac five will be in the open game. D1 will who knows. My problem is that the Pac 5 will beat each other in the playoff. ranks for DLS and Folsom 1 and 2 in state and #2 and #4 national (calpreps). So the 2 top teams will be in the right games. Socal Pac 5 teams ranking
School State National Ranking
Mater Dei #3 #5
St. John Bosc #4 #8
Corona Centennial #5 #13
Bishop Alemany #6 #14
JSerra #7 #16
Crespi #8 #24
Servite #9 #25
L.B. Poly #10 #46
Chaminade #11 #52
Santa Margarita #12 #53
Orange Lutheran #15 #67
Bishop Amat #17 #75
Gardena Serra #22 #100
This not fair but that’s the way it is. So there would be Open game 1 vs 1, D1 game 2 vs ???
Not sure exactly what your question is, but as it stands the CIFSS Pac-Five teams will indeed beat each other up until just one is left standing. All of the others are ineligible for the bowl games because they will not have won a section title. Having to win a section title has been a prerequisite for going to a bowl game since the system began in 2006 and frankly the proposal wouldn’t have passed the CIF Executive Council if it hadn’t been written that way. Yes, it sucks that the second-best and arguably third, fourth, fifth, etc best teams in SoCal won’t be playing Folsom in projected CIF D1 state bowl game. Instead it will be another section champion (Central, L.A. City, San Diego Open, CIFSS West Valley) and none of them are in Folsom’s class. Oceanside does have an active defensive front that might be able to cause Folsom problems with a rush against Jake Browning, but still need to see how good Oceanside is. This week’s game vs. Mission Hills will tell us a lot more.
My point is that Ca. needs to do away with bowl games and go to a true state championship system. No more section title. Stop this north vs south. Follow TX, FL, OH, TN, LA, GA. have 7 or 8 divisions base on enrollments, 8 to 9 teams per league. 15 league with only 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, and 19 at-large teams 64 teams 6 games 1st and 2nd place teams are home for round one, rounds 2 thru 5 teams with best record are home teams and play @ home. This will be true state champion.
Theoretically, I agree. But reality is that the section system in California has been around for 100 years and I don’t see how it could change. Most people in Southern California also seem to like the Southern Section and wouldn’t want to see it replaced by a true statewide CIF with sub-sections.
Still no mention that DLS can pull athletes from an unlimited geographical region, while public schools like Folsom cannot. The two teams should not be compared at all. In fact, DLS should only be playing schools that have the same enormous advantage of being able to draw athletes from anywhere.
Why is there no “Private/Charter Schools” division?
In the interest of promoting safe, fair levels of competition in this era of so much concern about player safety, you would think that would be the first thing the CIF would do. But no, they would rather have LBC beat poor Compton 99-9 and DLS squash respectable public school SRV 70-14.
Very disappointing leadership from the adults who run this sham.
Seriously, Grey, if you’re going to cry that much… just stop watching football at this level. Do us all a favor and just stop because it’s never going to change.
Furthermore, no private school cannot draw from an unlimited geographical region. That’s just nonsense. No one from Sacramento is commuting to Concord. No one from San Jose is leaving Bellarmine, Mitty, or Valley Christian to face 2-hour long commutes to Concord in the mornings and evenings. Jesuit is the only major Catholic school in the Sacramento area. Why aren’t they dominant? Garces is the only major private school in Bakersfield. Dominant? Nope. Being a private school does not guarantee any level of success.
Before Coach Lad arrived, DLS was nothing in football. The Spartans develop their players better than any other program. It’s a fallacy to believe that student-athletes just show up at DLS and are superstars. This is demonstrated regularly by the fact that the freshmen and JV teams do not always go undefeated, yet at the varsity level, they’re dominant.
Btw, a couple other things… LB Poly is a public school and its their own school district that is forcing them to be in their league. I also went to a public school who has a major private school rival. You suck it up and play the game. You don’t whine like a little baby.
Not sure where I whined or cried. Just stated facts. Another fact is that the athletes DLS wins with come from Antioch, Pittsburgh and Oakland. You know it and so does everyone else. That all good too.
What isn’t good is that other teams can’t play by the same rules. It won’t change, and I won’t stop trying to change it. Just like MLK didn’t stop. Gonna have to shoot me.
Has the CIF considered keeping the NorCal and SoCal Open and have the team that loses be in the D1bowl? When you think about it, it is almost certain that the top two teams who are chosen for the Opens would be the same ones for the Open and D1. If that had been the case all along then Folsom would have been in the state bowl the last two years and should have been based upon the SJS representative – no offense to GB and DO. If Folsom is indeed one of the best teams in Norcal history and had an opportunity to play DLS, they could really prove themselves. If they were to win then the implications are huge, but if not then there would still be a much better opponent in say a Mater Dei (assuming SJB beat MD in the SoCal open) then facing a non-Pac 5 team in Oceanide or forbid, Cathedral Catholic runs the table and beats Oceanside in the SD playoffs.
No, I do not think the CIF has thought about bringing in teams that have lost. The problem is that they don’t promote the Open Division as truly being above the other divisions and do not do things like seed the top four teams north and south and bring all four into a massive doubleheader. If Folsom at least had the chance to possibly play DLS for a state title instead of only the NorCal regional game, then losing the week before and watching somewhat lesser local teams win or play for CIF state titles wouldn’t have stung so bad.
First let me start by saying I’m the furthest thing from a DLS fan. But, one needs to give props to DLS. They absolutely smoke just about everybody they play including private schools from SoCal. That said, Folsom is keeping a very low profile in this discussion. They know it would take an act of force majure to keep the game within five touchdowns against DLS. I have watched both DLS and Folsom play live this year. I do not know what if the authors where watching a frosh game to game schools. But, DLS would beat Folsom by 60+ points this year. The speed they demonstrated on defense was scary!!!!! The DLS defensive line absolutely man-handled Servite and what do you think they would do to Folsom? Over the past couple of years DLS made the Folsom QB look average or a notch above average at best. Folsom’s non existing running game would make DLS’ defensive coordinator salivate cause he would stack the line and pressure the QB while the defensive backs that run legitimate 4.5’s would be in 1to1 coverage without their chin straps strapped and a toothpick. So let me give a prediction of starters for both teams playing 4 quarters. DLS 70 Folsom 7….. simply not in the same hemisphere.
As for the Freeman State Ranking to have Folsom ahead of DLS let’s just say that is comical at best.
Nice try to get people riled up. Folsom is a lot better on defense than last 2 years, probably still not as good as DLS but clearly closer.
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