Folsom battles to the end to top Oak Ridge, 17-16

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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The battle between Folsom and Oak Ridge was everything it should have been.

The two best teams in the league and surely two of the best in the Sacramento area battling it out to the final seconds for a Sierra Foothill League championship … and bragging rights.

The rivals went at it tooth and nail for 48 minutes and after stopping a two-point conversation with 50 seconds remaining and then a final Oak Ridge drive after the Trojans recovered the onside kick, Folsom came out on top 17-16.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Folsom senior linebacker and receiver Brad Jenner said. “It was a rivalry game and emotions were high and both teams brought their A-game. Well, maybe we didn’t have our A-game, but we got the job done and that’s all that matters.”

The resilient Trojans were disappointed to lose the game, but all signs pointed to the future and the hopes of running into the Bulldogs again in the playoffs.

“We left it all on the table and I’m proud of my team,” Oak Ridge senior safety and receiver Cameron Stone said. “Our defense played great and offensively, some things didn’t go our way. The loss sucks, but we’re going to take this and use it. I’m 100 percent confident that we’re going to come together and go deep in the playoffs.”

Said junior quarterback Marco Baldacchino, “This will be big for us. We felt we should have won. This will give us a fire in our belly and we’ll get the next one.”

Oak Ridge scored on its first two possessions; a 19-yard field goal and three-yard run from Justin Poerio, which put them up 10-0 early in the second quarter. Folsom cut the lead to 10-7 with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Joe Curry to Eric Davis midway through the quarter, scoring on its third possession.

After bending early, Folsom’s defense stiffened in the middle portions of the game, shutting down the Trojan run game that was successful in the first quarter. The Bulldogs tied the game at 10 with a 35-yard field goal by Troy Calderara with 19 seconds to play in the third quarter.

After the defense forced an Oak Ridge punt, Folsom took the lead for good, as it capped off its next possession with a two-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Curry to Jenner, which put Folsom up 17-10 with 8:41 to play.

After the teams exchanged punts. Oak Ridge got the ball at the Folsom 20-yard line with 2:13 to play. After overcoming a third-and-13 situation with a pass to Poerio, the Trojans later found themselves in fourth-and-five and converted it with a Baldacchino pass to Stone.

From there, the Trojans took the ball down the field and eventually scored on a 15-yard Baldacchino pass to Austin Eastman with 50 seconds remaining. The Trojans decided to go for two and the SFL title, but the snap to Baldacchino in the shotgun formation was low and he couldn’t handle it and Folsom’s Shawn Johnson recovered it.

“Unquestionable,” said Oak Ridge Coach Eric Cavaliere on the decision to go for two and the win. “We’re going for an SFL championship; we had to go for it. I loved the play call, but I think there was a timing issue and we mishandled the snap.”

Baldacchino took the blame.

“It’s tough,” he said. “They called my number. The snap was low, but I took my eyes off of it. I should have had it. By the time I tried to get the ball, they were on it.”

The game wasn’t over yet. Austin Jarrard’s onside kicked was jarred loose from a Folsom player and Oak Ridge’s Davis Lang recovered the ball at the Folsom 31-yard line. Oak Ridge got a second life, but couldn’t take advantage, as Folsom held them to a four-and-out with an incomplete pass on fourth down with 12 seconds remaining sealing the Folsom victory and third straight SFL title.

At halftime, Folsom Coach Kris Richardson took the blame for his team’s sputtering offense. He told the defense to keep playing the way they were playing and the team  would win the game.

“I was thrilled the way the defense was playing,” Richardson said. “We didn’t do a good job of stringing together first downs on offense and that’s on me. We weren’t executing at a high level and I’ll take the blame for that. Oak Ridge played well and it wasn’t a great performance from us, but it’s a game we’ll learn from.”

The run game got Folsom’s offense headed in the right direction in the second half. Davin Simmons led the way, as he rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries. Curry finished with 202 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 21-of-32 attempts. Davis made seven catches for 83 yards and one score.

Folsom center Blake Christierson said the close win was just what the team needed.

“I’ve felt that this team needed a close victory,” Christierson said. “We had that close loss to Sac High and I felt we needed a close win. It shows we’ve come together and can win a game when we need to. We pride ourselves on our conditioning and playing at a flat plane rather than riding the highs and lows of a game. I think tonight proves that that’s a formula for success.”

Michael Pittman led the Trojans’ offense, as he gained 58 yards on 11 carries. Rhys Kennedy rushed for 23 yards on five carries, and Baldacchino picked up 45 yards on 14 carries, while completing 15-of-28 passes for 141 yards. Poerio caught seven passes for 75 yards and also rushed for eight yards on two carries.

Folsom also won the high-scoring junior varsity game, 49-28.