Bulldogs blast Grant of Sacramento 52-21 in CIF NorCal Division I bowl game and will meet another unbeaten team next week. It wasn’t the passing game this time that was the difference, but the running game and the defense.
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A season that began with a convincing win over a school from the San Diego area is hopefully going to end that way for Folsom’s record-breaking football team.
With quarterback Jake Browning “only” throwing for 259 yards and three touchdowns, it was more of a balanced showing – on both sides of the ball – in a 52-21 victory by the Bulldogs over Grant of Sacramento in the CIF Northern California Division I regional bowl game held at Sacramento State.
Both teams entered the game at 14-0 and while Folsom was a clear favorite, the margin of victory – which was closer due to two late Grant touchdowns – was nonetheless a bit shocking.
Folsom, sitting at third overall in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, advanced to play No. 5 Oceanside (14-0) in next Friday’s CIF Division I state bowl game to be held at the StubHub Center in Carson.
Grant, which had climbed to No. 6 in the state as teams from the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs went down to defeats, couldn’t run the ball against Folsom’s active front seven. That enabled the Folsom offense to get the ball back and eventually to build a huge lead.“Grant is very athletic, but our guys are very athletic, too,” said Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson, who took the Bulldogs down south in 2010 when they defeated Serra of Gardena for the CIF Division II state crown. “We are a lot more athletic than we get credit for. We are not just a scheme. We have a pretty big, physical front line. We’re definitely excited and can’t wait for the challenge in front of us.”
In the first half, Grant could only muster 107 yards of offense and 50 of those came on one pass play. Folsom, on the other hand, scored touchdowns on its third and fourth drives of the game and then really put the clamps on the Pacers when linebacker Bailey Laolagi picked off a pass and ran it back for an 18-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 24-0 lead.
Any hope for the Pacers was lost on the first two plays of the second half. The first was mishandling the kickoff – it bounced off the helmet of one player – and the ball was recovered by Folsom at the 8-yard line. On the next play, Laolagi took a handoff ran it in for score, upping the lead to 33-0.
The only reason the score was somewhat respectable was Pacers’ QB Donovan Brown throwing 26-yard and 71-yard TD passes in the game’s last five minutes when the score was 52-7.
Brown, in fact, almost threw for as many yards as Browning. He finished 10 of 20 for 234 yards and three TDs compared to 13 of 24 for 259 and three for the Folsom QB. It was still a notable night for Browning, though, since he caught the first TD pass of his career on a five-yard throwback from Josiah Deguara.
“It feels great to be going to the state championship,” said Browning, who like most college-bound Division I quarterbacks is graduating early. “It’s my last week of high school so it’s a pretty cool feeling. We’ve got to try to treat it like every other week.”
Browning’s future home will be the University of Washington, which also is where Oceanside’s top-ranked defensive player, cornerback Jordan Miller, is going.
“I did meet him in June,” Browning said of going against a future teammate next week. “I know he’s good.”
With his TDs on Friday, Browning upped his state and national records for career TD passes to 223 and put his season total at 85. He’ll need six in his final game for the national single-season record of 91 set in 2008 by Corey Robinson from Lone Oak of Paducah, Ky.
Two of Browning’s TDs on Friday went to senior Cole Thompson, which gives him 33 TD catches for the season. Thompson thus ties the Cal-Hi Sports state record of 33 set in 2011 by Deontay Greenberry from Washington of Easton.
With everything culminating for Folsom next week in one game – a possible state title, talk of how they’d have done against the Open Division winner, Browning’s career – the trick may be for Richardson and co-coach Troy Taylor to keep the team focused and not get too emotional.
“Our kids have a great mind-set and we talk all the time about no one game being bigger than the next,” said Richardson, whose team started the season by beating Cathedral Catholic of San Diego 55-10 at an event held in San Diego. “We want to show up, compete and treat it like a business trip. We don’t need to play way above our heads.”
Yes, the way this Folsom team has been operating all season, just continuing what it’s been doing certainly can be enough.