Spartans go to Sacramento County powerhouse school for the first time and head home with their NorCal record of domination since 1991 intact after a 42-27 victory. The win in No. 3 vs. No. 4 in state matchup also puts them in usual position of being the favorite to play for the CIF Open Division state title for the 11th straight season. Bulldogs surged in the second half and will now look to possibly win a third straight CIF Division 1-AA state title.
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Playing for the first time on a blue turf field at Folsom High’s Prairie City Stadium didn’t matter much to the De La Salle of Concord football team on Friday night. The Spartans rolled to a huge early lead of 28-0 and then had to hold on in the fourth quarter for a 42-27 triumph.
Folsom had all the energy it would need from a raucous home crowd, who were hoping the Bulldogs (2-0 and No. 4 in the state coming into the night) could shock the state’s prep football community by knocking off the Spartans and ending their unbeaten streak against opponents from north of Fresno that has gone on since 1991.
One of the differences in the game is that the Spartans (2-1) already had played a nationally ranked opponent this year, which would be their season-opening 24-13 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Folsom, opening with numerous new starters and an almost entirely new coaching staff, had two easy wins on its belt against more mediocre competition.
“We know we still have got to win out, but absolutely this was about the Open Division,” said De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh. “We wanted to make a statement and we had them down 42-14, but defense and special teams is something we’re going to have to work on.”
The Spartans, who’ve now beaten Folsom four times since 2012 against no losses and in all three previous years the Bulldogs didn’t lose to anyone else, always work on all phases of the game as the season unfolds. One aspect of their game that was most impressive on Friday was their offensive rushing attack.
This year’s team has already shown it’s much more explosive on the perimeter and in the passing game. But against Folsom, it was more vintage, smash-mouth De La Salle.
Already leading 21-0 in the second quarter (helped by Blas Guerrero making 39- and 27-yard field goals), the Spartans came up with a fourth-down sack to halt Folsom and get the ball back at the Bulldogs’ 47-yard line. Alumbaugh called 10 straight running plays. Shamar Garrett had two first-down runs to help set up teammate Dorian Hale with a 1-yard sneak. De La Salle also ate up almost the entire clock for the rest of the half.
Folsom only had 26 seconds to work with before halftime, but that was all senior quarterback Jake Reithmeier would need. He connected with preseason all-state wideout Elijhah Badger for a 41-yard play to get the ball down to the 26-yard line and then on the final play of the half as time expired as Badger was pulling down a touchdown pass from Reithmeier in the end zone.
The Bulldogs and everyone else in the stadium knew they’d be getting the ball first to start the second half and they took advantage. They drove 88 yards in 12 plays. Badger, who caught 14 passes in the game for 169 yards and two TDs, again was the recipient of a Reithmeier scoring pass, this one from 19 yards out and all of the momentum had shifted to the home side of the field with just a 28-14 deficit.
On De La Salle’s ensuing possession, two consecutive 10-yard penalties put the Spartans in a hole. They were facing third down and 21 from their own 18-yard line. Hale tried to hit on the same pass to teammate Grant Daley that just missed on his previous throw, but this time Daley came up with a diving catch for a 23-yard gain. Had Daley not made that catch and Folsom had gotten the ball back, who’s knows how the game might have unfolded?
The Spartans went on to score after that catch by jamming it down the field. A 19-yard run by James Coby put the ball at the 22-yard line and then then it was Hale again powering it in from two yards out and the lead was back up to 35-14.
That lead then grew to 42-14 after an interception by Charles McAdoo (one of several DLS football players from the school’s 2019 State Baseball Team of the Year) set up De La Salle for another touchdown. That one came on another key third down play as Hale ran for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. It was his fourth touchdown run of the game (including a 69-yarder that started the scoring in the first quarter).
When a team is behind by that much with just 9:19 left, the odds of a comeback win have to be astronomical. But the Bulldogs didn’t quit. They went 80 yards on their next series that culminated in a 16-yard TD pass from Reithmeier to to C.J. Hutton.
Collecting onside kicks or getting turnovers is the only way a team can get back into it in that situation and getting back-to-back onside kicks did just that for Folsom. After the first one, the Bulldogs scored on a 1-yard run by Daniyel Ngata, but then they nabbed the second one, too. With 4:34 left and the lead at 42-27, the Bulldogs needed to score another touchdown and if they did it quickly they might not have even needed to go for a third straight onside kick with the score at 42-34 or 42-35. They didn’t get into the end zone after the second recovery, however, as the De La Salle defense forced two incomplete passes. The Spartans then simply ran out the clock.
“I was not worried at the end,” insisted Garrett, who helped the team rush for 288 yards and was battling Folsom’s receivers as a cornerback all night. “It’s part of the game. You’ve got to play for everything. We just had a job to do on defense.”
Reithmeier, who had six touchdown passes in Folsom’s second game victory over Antelope and had 267 with three TDs on Friday, disagreed that the lack of playing a more difficult opponent beforehand was much of a factor.
“We just started out slow,” he said. “We started to play better in the second half. They’re a really good team who minimize mistakes. We’ve got to capitalize better when we have an advantage.”
De La Salle will be home next week to play state-ranked Buchanan of Clovis and will return to the Central Valley for a third time this season the week after that to be at St. Mary’s of Stockton. With the CIF North Coast Section playoffs down the road, it doesn’t look like the Spartans will be facing another opponent like Folsom the rest of the season — until they likely reach the CIF Open Division state final once again.
For the Bulldogs, they won’t have time to wallow in their sorrows. They are opening Sierra Foothill League play next week against 2-0 Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, which also has been in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 50 rankings.
Folsom head coach Paul Doherty praised his players for their second half showing and challenged them to practice with more intensity and focus in the coming weeks. And despite the loss, the Bulldogs remain the team to beat in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs where another title there would put them quite certainly in the CIF D1-AA state bracket once again. The main question mark would then be which team would the Bulldogs play in that scenario?
“We had no punts, no turnovers so I was happy about that,” Alumbaugh said. “I was tempted to open it up a few times, but we controlled the line of scrimmage so it was more of what we’re known for with a couple of timely throws.”