Folsom sets section record in playoff win over Sheldon

By: Nick Pecoraro for the Telegraph
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The Folsom Bulldogs continue to roll through competition, even in the postseason, where they have now won a Sac-Joaquin Section record 18 consecutive playoff games with a 41-14 victory over the visiting Sheldon Huskies in a quarterfinal match-up at Prairie City Stadium.

Even short-handed, the Folsom Bulldogs still are a dominant team on both sides of the football. The Bulldogs played stellar defense even with the absence of tackling staples Brad Jenner and Keoni Zagata-Vera (both nursing shoulder injuries). Ariel Ngata, Drew Holt, Cruz Lara and Ezra Gulewich led the way for Folsom on the defensive end.

“We just did what we were supposed to do,” said Ngata, Folsom’s senior defensive leader headed to the University of Washington next year. “We have that next guy mentality and we tried not to be phased by it. Those are our brothers; so it's really hard to see them get hurt, but we did what we had to do.”

Last week, the one-seeded Bulldogs hammered Kennedy in the opening round of the postseason 78-6, while Sheldon upset Napa 37-28 in the 8-9 match-up. The 18th consecutive playoff win breaks the record of the great Cordova teams of the late 1970s.

“To say that we have more wins than those great Cordova teams is a feather in our cap,” said Folsom Head Coach Kris Richardson.

Sheldon Head Coach Joe Cattolico knows Richardson and the Bulldogs well from their Delta River League days not so long ago. Before the Bulldogs surrendered their first regular season loss in 48 such games against Sacramento High back in September, Cattolico’s Pleasant Grove team was the last team to deal Folsom a regular season loss back in 2011.

“Joe's one of the best guys around. He's a class act; kids love playing for him and he took a couple years off and came back and turned Sheldon into an eight-win team. We have a great mutual respect for each other. We've had some great battles back in the Delta River League,” said Richardson. “We knew looking at the bracket that if we got to the second round, we were going to have our hands full. I'm thrilled that we beat a really good football team.”

The Bulldogs struck early, as quarterback Joe Curry threw touchdown passes to Joe Ngata and Eric Davis for 11 and 24 yards, respectively, to give Folsom a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Curry hooked up with Drake Stallworth early in the second quarter from 38 yards out down the near sideline.

Curry’s lone blemish on the night was an interception with 31 seconds left in the first half to Samuel Brooks, whose return enabled Sheldon to threaten a score before half. Quarterback Chancellor Lachapelle scrambled for 22 yards on the final play of the half, but remained about four yards shy of the end zone, leaving Folsom with a 21-point cushion heading into the locker room.

Curry connected twice more with Stallworth in the second half from six and 13 yards out, respectively. Stallworth finished with 103 yards and three scores, while Davis tallied 158 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown.

After Curry punted the ball away with Davis downing the ball inside the Sheldon one-yard line at the 4:53 mark in the third quarter, the Huskies’ standout running back Graylon Lindsey went from inside one end zone to the other, rushing 99 yards for Sheldon’s first score of the night to make it 28-7. The following kickoff, which Kaiden Bennett returned 45 yards to the Sheldon 33, set up his own 16-yard direct snap and run for a touchdown just four plays later.

Lindsey finished with 15 carries and 196 yards for the Huskies, who finish at 8-4.

The Bulldogs are in the midst of a quest for a Sac-Joaquin Section five-peat dating back to 2012. Folsom has won three consecutive Section titles at the Division I level after securing two in three years in 2010 and 2012 in Division II. Should the Bulldogs win two more games, they would have earned their eighth overall section title, tying them with Escalon for third most in the past 40 years. The primary objective for the Bulldogs now is to stay healthy.

“It's the end of the season and that kind of (injury) stuff happens. The goal was to come out of this game as healthy as possible,” said Richardson. “Every team that's left is probably in the same boat. Seasons are long grinds for these kids.”

The competition only intensifies with each new round of the playoffs. Folsom will host Elk Grove next week for a chance to play at Sacramento State for a fifth straight section title.