The host Bulldogs had not lost to a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section opponent since 2011 and had not lost in a regular season game since earlier in that same season. Two defensive touchdowns by the Dragons helped pave the way for the win.
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The original plan was not to have any extra coverage of Friday’s game between Folsom (ranked No. 8 in the state) and Sacramento, which has never been in the State Top 25 but has had some explosive teams and players in recent years.
But that all changed in shocking fashion when the Dragons ended the Bulldogs’ 44-game regular-season winning streak with a 32-27 win. Folsom’s last loss to a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section team came in the 2011 Division II title game to Vacaville. It’s last loss in the regular season came earlier that season to Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove.
Since then, Folsom and its pass-crazy offense has dominated in the section with title teams in 2012 and 2013 that lost only to De La Salle of Concord in NorCal Open Division games, an historically great 2014 team that went 16-0 and won the CIF Division I state title and last year’s team that was unbeaten before losing to Bellarmine of San Jose in the CIF NorCal D1-AA bowl game.
Falling behind 14-0 early and without a first down on each of their first three offensive drives, the Dragons looked to be headed to a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter before the first of several big momentum swings.
After the Bulldogs started from their own 18 and marched down the field on a lengthy drive, the 13th play of the series was a completed pass to inside the Sacramento 5-yard line. But as the receiver reached for the end zone, the ball was knocked loose and recovered by the Dragons at the 1-yard line.
Two plays later, the Dragons were on the scoreboard as junior Anthony Bradley made a 41-yard catch followed by Tariq Hollandsworth’s 58-yard touchdown run.
On the next offensive play for Folsom, the Dragons found the end zone again when Bradley intercepted Folsom’s Joe Curry and returned it for six points.
“Our kids never give up, that’s one thing about our kids at Sac High, they are fighters and they will fight tooth and nail until the end.” said head coach Justin Reber after the game.
Folsom still led 14-12 and looked to be driving to make it a two-score game once again before halftime before a bad call caused confusion with the referees leading to the Bulldogs not only losing yards but a down as well.
The Dragons eventually got the ball back for one last drive before halftime. On that last possession, it looked like the Bulldogs had stripped the upright quarterback and were headed the other way for a 90 yard strip six before the play was eventually stopped. Officials ruled that forward progress had been stopped before the fumble despite no whistle being heard. Two plays later, the Dragons were in the end zone again and took an 18-14 halftime lead.
Getting the ball to start the second half, Folsom once again marched down the field only to fail to find the end zone and once again gave up a score on offense.
On the play, a short screen pass was not only intercepted but returned 88 yards for a touchdown by E.J. Larry to extend the Dragons’ lead.
It was then nearly back-to-back pick sixes (and a third of the game) for the Dragons on the next series as Bradley once again intercepted a pass and looked to have it returned for a score. A questionable penalty away from the ball, however, took the points off the board.
Two series later, Bradley came through again by catching a jump ball with an Odell Beckham Jr. like one-handed grab as the Dragons finished their streak of 32 straight points to lead 32-14 late in the third quarter.
Down three scores, the Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight as they got back on the scoreboard with a short touchdown run to make it 32-21 with 5:33 remaining.
Then, needing to get the ball back in a hurry, head coach Kris Richardson ordered an onside kick and Folsom recovered. Following a converted a fourth and 26 and in just a couple of minutes, the Bulldogs were back in the end zone to make it 32-27 with 3:06 remaining.
The next onside kick attempt was not recovered and the Sacramento offense, behind the running of Hollandsworth, picked up two first downs and then simply ran out the clock.
“I’m the senior running back and somebody has to fill those big shoes (left behind by graduating quarterback Caden Voges) and I’m going to make the shoe size bigger,” said Hollandsworth after the game. “We got a new coach so he just came in here and blessed the program immediately.”
“He’s the real deal and we are going to ride him until the end,” said Reber about his running back who rushed for over 200 yards and a score.
“All week we said we were going to make them run the football,” said Reber about his team’s game plan that limited Folsom’s high octane offense that struggled to pass the ball deep down the field.
“We played two high and a little man underneath and we said if they are going to beat us they are going to beat us on the ground. I didn’t think their speed could match our speed outside so we wanted to make them throw the ball short and rally up on defense. This win is huge for the program, huge for our kids, huge for our community.”
“Oh my god you would not believe how ecstatic as a team we are,’ continued Hollandsworth while unable to contain the smile on his face. “We have had a lot to overcome and challenges. So when we beat a team like this that nobody thought we could beat and as complete underdogs like this, it just feels great. We feel like champions already.”
Paul Muyskens is the Stockton office assistant editor for CalHiSports.com. He also worked the Folsom-Sacramento game for the Comcast Hometown Network broadcast. 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