In the Bulldogs’ 68-7 win over Oceanside for the CIF Division I state championship, there were some anxious moments early before defensive pressure led to Pirate mistakes, then the vaunted offense took over. Jake Browning ends historic season with 91 TD passes for the season (a national record tie) and 229 TD passes for career (also a national record).
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This result could be seen from miles away, at least from the first week of the season when Folsom opened with a 55-10 win on the road in San Diego over Cathedral Catholic, which was forecast to be one of that section’s top teams this season.
That dominant outing by the Bulldogs — which prompted long-time Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle to say it was the best team he’s ever seen — combined with the California Interscholastic Federation’s decision to not play the Open Division regional bowl games anymore meant it was entirely likely that they would finish 16-0, win the CIF Division I state bowl game and not have a chance to be No. 1 in the state.
No matter what Folsom did this season – and in the end the Bulldogs did plenty – the questions will always linger how they would have done in a third matchup against legendary De La Salle of Concord.Even with Friday’s 68-7 triumph over previously unbeaten Oceanside at the StubHub Center in Carson, there’s no reason to rank Folsom ahead of De La Salle even if the Spartans (13-0) were to lose in Saturday’s Open Division championship to Centennial of Corona.
Everyone knows when the two NorCal powers did play in the last two Open Division regional games, De La Salle won 49-15 and 45-17 and had a combined six interceptions against record-breaking Folsom QB Jake Browning.
So once again, after Folsom has buried another very good opponent, it’s been a historic season for a great team, but it just could have been even better and any questions whether the Bulldogs could have beaten De La Salle would have been answered. Thanks, CIF.
To the credit of the players and coaches at Folsom, there’s only been mild wistfulness regarding how this year’s team would have done against the Spartans.
“They’re great and it would have been fun to play them again,” said Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor. “But playing them just makes you better and helped us figure some things out. Sure, it would have been nice to play them again because you always want to play the best, but we also felt we did play one of the best regardless tonight.”
“We just can’t worry about that,” said Arizona-bound Folsom offensive tackle Cody Creason. “It’d be nice to play De La Salle. This was by far the best team I’ve been on by a longshot.”
Creason, along with Browning and linebacker-fullback Bailey Laolagi, were varsity standouts as sophomores and gained Cal-Hi Sports all-state sophomore honors two years ago.
“We’ve known each other since we were little and have gone 43-2 in high school,” Creason said. “When we lost to De La Salle when we were sophomores, we thought we were the best but found out otherwise. It made us as a team work that much harder.”
Taylor, who was a quarterback himself on one of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s other all-time great teams (a 14-0 squad from 1985 at Cordova of Rancho Cordova), wouldn’t quite say this year’s bunch he coached at Folsom was the best in section history but he almost did.
“This has to be the greatest senior class ever with three section titles in the row and now this,” he said. “It’s got to be one of the best teams as well.”
As for Friday’s game, despite the final score, it still wasn’t as easy for the Bulldogs to take control against Oceanside as it was in their previous game against 14-0 Grant of Sacramento in the CIF NorCal Division I bowl game.
The Pirates actually took a 7-0 lead on their first series on a 8-yard scramble into the end zone by quarterback Matt Romero.
After Folsom answered with a TD drive on its first series on a 4-yard quarterback sneak by Browning in which he used nifty feet to move around the pile, Oceanside was driving again and had the ball inside the Folsom 30-yard line at the end of the first quarter.
It was at that point when Folsom’s defensive line – which is almost as dominant a unit as its passing game – began dominating Oceanside’s front. Two straight sacks eventually pushed the Pirates out of field goal range, then Folsom got the ball back on its own 10-yard line.
Despite having to go 90 yards, the Bulldogs still drove the field and took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter on a 23-yard pass from Browning to Jake Morgado.
The defensive line then came through again for Folsom when Lukas Hendricks stripped the ball away from Romero and it was recovered by Austin Rothrock.
“They were getting a lot of pressure on their QB and we were able to bring some blitzes,” said Browning, who also has attended his last class at Folsom since he is graduating early and will head to the University of Washington for its spring practices. “Our o-line also did a fabulous job. This really was a team victory.”
On the next play, Browning connected with Josiah Deguara for a 23-yard TD pass and a 21-7 lead for the Bulldogs.
Another sack followed by a shanked punt set up Folsom for its third TD in four minutes. That one came on a 1-yard run by fullback-linebacker Bailey Laolagi and just like that it was 28-7 and Oceanside was never in it thereafter.
“We were banged up but it wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Oceanside head coach John Carroll, whose team also finished with three turnovers in addition to the shanked punt. “They were a better football team, an outstanding team, the best we’ve ever played. If they’re not one of the top two or three teams in the nation, I don’t know who is.”
Well, we’ll never know, either. It’s just from a rankings standpoint the winner of Saturday’s Open Division contest will have to be ranked higher.
Harold Abend contributed to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports