It's Bulldogs vs. Trojans for SFL titleBy: Matt Long of the Telegraph
Folsom and Del Oro were preseason favorites to win the Sierra Foothill League.
While it’s no surprise Folsom will play for a league title Friday, it’s a surprise to some Oak Ridge will be doing the same.
The Trojans were selected by local media to place fifth in the SFL, but Oak Ridge enters Friday’s game at Prairie City Stadium with an identical record as the Bulldogs, 5-0 in the league and 8-1 overall. The Trojans have had an impressive season and are exactly where they want to be; a win away from a league title.
“We’re playing really well,” Oak Ridge junior quarterback Marco Baldacchino said. “I’m surprised at how well we’ve done in the SFL with such a young team, but my guys have gotten after it and have been grinding since January and I’m proud of how we’ve done. We’ve prepared very well and it’s paid off.”
Oak Ridge Coach Eric Cavaliere is also pleased with his team’s play this year.
“It feels great to be where we are,” Cavaliere said. “We’ve taken care of business up to this point and have been gaining momentum. We’re looking forward to this week and on to the postseason. We haven’t played our best game yet.”
Oak Ridge has lost the last 10 meetings to the Bulldogs, the last win coming a decade ago in 2006. The last time the team’s met a year ago, Folsom came away with a 35-21 win, the closest game the teams have played against one another since 2011.
“We just need to play to our capability,” Cavaliere said. “We don’t need players to try to play beyond their capabilities. We don’t need any super-human effort. We just need to play the way we’re capable. Play as a team on offense and as a team on defense. No one player needs to win this game for us. It needs to be a shared effort.”
The Bulldogs, having already lost this year to Sacramento High, aren’t taking the game lightly.
“This is what we’ve worked for,” Folsom Coach Kris Richardson said. “It’s a great match-up between the two highest-scoring teams in the league. They’re a well-coached team.”
The Trojans are led by Baldacchino, who has thrown for 1,282 yards and 15 touchdowns against only three interceptions. He’s also the team’s second leading rusher with 677 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“Marco is the key to their success offensively,” Richardson said. “He’s a run-first guy who can throw. It all starts with him. They have a big offensive line. We’re going to have to utilize our quickness off the ball, and limit the big play. Defensively, they’ve got a couple big guys up front. We’re going to have to run the ball on offense to keep them honest, and we need to protect our quarterback, as always.”
For the Bulldogs, a win would mean a third straight SFL title with three consecutive
“A win would mean a lot to the team,” Folsom receiver Drake Stallworth said. “It’s been a huge goal all season, of course, along with a section championship. It will definitely be a good battle. We’ve been watching them. We’ve got to stop their quarterback. We have to play strong defense, because I believe our offense will get it done.”
Senior linebacker Brad Jenner added, “We have to keep doing what we’re doing and play Folsom football. We have to come out strong and play four quarters of football. If we do that, no one can beat us.”
Oak Ridge believes the game will be won at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s just like any other game, we need to win it up front at the line of scrimmage,” Baldacchino said. “If our line handles things up front, it opens up holes for us to run and gives me time to pass and if we do that we’ll be victorious.”
Said senior lineman Parker Blomquist, “We have to out-physical them on both sides of the ball. They’re a good passing team, so our defensive backs have to be physical. Speed and physicality will be the key. Same thing offensively. We will need to execute very well.”